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Health insurance, vision care and diabetes

Surveys are strange beasts. Sometimes they only tell you what you want to hear, or they tell you what you already know, or they tell you what you don't want to hear. In this case, we have an insurance company asking about lifestyle. This is something we ought to know about. So the results find us stressed out by having too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Everyone walks around with a to-do list. On a daily basis, we have to fit in going to work, remember to pay bills, do essential shopping, and so on. That's before any emergencies appear to turn the day on its head. So the real point of the survey was to find out what, if anything, the insurance industry could do to improve matters. Obviously, these big corporations can't have someone standing by to pick up the children from school if you're running late, but there may be other real practical changes that ca be made to make your life easier.

Let's take the annual vision exam as an example. More than 80% of those surveyed understood the general importance of the exam. It's not just to get a new prescription for contacts. It also involves a more general examination of your health and can give an early diagnosis of diabetes. Why should this matter? In its earliest stages, the condition is reversible by a change in your diet and the level of exercise. In the medium term, this would mean you might not have to start the insulin injections. That's an immediate saving to you on copayments. If those payments were to add up over your life. . . Now suppose that everyone avoided type II diabetes and the long-term costs. This would be a major saving to your insurance company and it might be reduce the premium rates. Now that, on its own, should encourage you to take time, once a year, to have your eyes examined. Yet, finding the time during a busy working day can be a real struggle. Employers are not always too pleased if you disappear for a few hours. That's why the better insurance companies are working with eye doctors to provide the tests in the evenings and over weekends.

With some insurers, this is all part of a general move to help people manage their own health in the community. This depends on the use of registered nurses to reach out through the internet and telephone, and through home visits to support people and help them manage long-term problems like diabetes. The use of qualified nurses as opposed to physicians in a clinic or hospital is a major cost saving. Nurses earn only a fraction the pay of physicians. Again, these cost saving help the insurers to either avoid increasing their health insurance rates or keep increases to a minimum. Indeed, the more treatment can be moved into the community and away from the for-profit clinics and hospitals, the closer we get to the reality of cheap health insurance for all. So long as medical care is controlled by expensive physicians in their hospitals, the more costs will rise. You should support Obamacare and its move to preventive medicine.


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