May 2011

Healthier Lifestyle Can Help Reduce Insurance Costs

Author: Karen Cully

Every day I am asked how families and businesses can reduce the cost of their health insurance. A healthy lifestyle and regular preventative medical care is one way to reduce the cost of your health insurance premium.

2011 is a great time to begin a healthier lifestyle. Set realistic goals to modify your habits, and soon you will be on track for the rest of the year. Empower yourself by taking an active role in your decisions and lifestyle approach:

• Be your own health advocate. Review your health insurance policy every year at renewal. If you understand what you policy includes, you are more likely to use all the benefits correctly. Make sure you have all the benefits you need, but do not pay for services you do not use, such as vision or dental. You may want to consider a higher deductible to help reduce your premium. You may also be pleasantly surprised to find that your policy covers an illness or procedure that you never knew it did.

• Telemedicine services are an innovative new trend for 2011 and can help keep usage of your health insurance to a minimum. Telemedicine services are not part of your health insurance plan. Purchased independently, telemedicine will give you access to licensed, board certified physicians 24/7 and is a very inexpensive additional health service.

• Read publications about health care. Pay attention to free wellness publications like Inside Mayo Clinic at mayo.edu.

• Also visit the great local resources available on the Hilton Head Health (H3) blog at, h3daily.com for tips, recipes, and daily health articles.

• Visit your physician for regular checkups. Preventative care is key to a healthier you and also keeping your health insurance costs contained. If you go for routine medical care, your doctor is more likely to find issues before they become major medical events that send you to the hospital, and raise your health insurance usage. Remember to schedule annual physicals, mammograms, prostate exams, vaccinations and dental cleanings.

• Communicate with your physician, pharmacist, and nurses. Write down your questions before you go to the doctor. Do not be shy about asking questions. Make sure to get specific answers, be honest, and talk to them about alternatives if a medication or treatment is not working for you.

• Use one pharmacy for all your prescription medications. Most pharmacy or drugstore chains have computers to search for possible medication reactions. They also keep a history of all your medications. Use automatic refill plans and save yourself the worry of remembering to call in your refills. Take your medication as prescribed. Do not miss a dose or stop taking it because you are feeling better. Keep a list of each medication you take, what the dosage is and how often you take it.

• Eat healthier. Eat breakfast every morning. It really does help jump-start your metabolism. You are also more likely to make up the calories by eating more during the day if you skip breakfast. Snack from a portion-controlled serving, not directly from the package. Choose foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt. Eat more fruits and vegetables, drink water each day, and avoid sugared soft drinks. Modify recipes to reduce the amount of fat calories. Substitute skim milk for whole milk. Use whole-wheat products. Ground turkey can be a substitute for ground beef.

• Live healthier. If you smoke, take steps to quit. Talk to your health care provider about medications, patches, and support groups. Limit you alcoholic beverages; they can be loaded with calories. Buckle your seat belt. It is such a simple way to prevent injury when accidents occur.

• Be on the move! Strive for a total of 30 minutes of physical activity three to four times per week. Along with your additional physical activity, try parking farther away from the store or office. Take the stairs instead of the elevator when you have the opportunity. The extra steps will add up quickly to a healthier you.

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