To save money, some would let insurers monitor health

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 11, 2014.

Sarah Luke, 73, of Kennesaw, Ga., who was diagnosed with diabetes six years ago, works out at her local YMCA. Photo: David Goldman, Associated Press
Sarah Luke, 73, of Kennesaw, Ga., who was diagnosed with diabetes six years ago, works out at her local YMCA. Photo: David Goldman, Associated Press

In an age when many Americans have difficulty swallowing the high costs of health insurance, prescriptions and medical care, research reveals how far we’re willing to go for a discount.

A 2013 survey of more than 2,000 adults across the country suggests most would agree to medical screenings and lifestyle changes – and let insurance companies monitor their progress – in exchange for lower insurance premiums, co-pays or other financial rewards.

Market research firm Harris Interactive conducted the survey in partnership with HealthDay News. They found as little as $200 could persuade 47 percent of previously unwilling people to respond to their insurance company’s health questionnaire, including questions about weight, smoking, drinking and exercise habits and health history. And many are willing to do even more to lower their yearly out-of-pocket costs, premiums or deductibles.

Here are the numbers:

75%

The percentage of people surveyed who said they’d be willing to have their blood pressure checked and share the results with their health insurance company. Sixty-eight percent said they’d do the same with blood glucose and cholesterol screenings.

38%

The percentage who said they’d agree to follow a specific diet to help lower blood pressure or cholesterol if it meant they’d get a financial break from their employer or health insurance company. Just over half said they’d take part in an insurance-monitored exercise plan.

49%

The percentage of people surveyed who said they’d be “very willing” to undergo a genetic test to predict their likelihood of developing cancer or other diseases and share the results with their health insurer.

28%

The percentage who said they would keep an online diet-and-exercise diary to share with health insurance providers.

36%

The percentage of large companies – those with more than 200 employees – nationwide that offer employees a financial incentive to participate in a wellness program, according to a separate 2013 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation in Menlo Park. Incentives range from lower premiums or deductibles, a contribution to a tax-preferred savings account, a gift card or cash.