Medicare: Attracting the healthy

When insurance companies offer fitness club memberships to their beneficiaries, they attract healthier enrollees.

According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, more than 35 percent of new enrollees had “excellent” or “very good” health, compared with less than 30 percent of those in the group without the benefit. The study pointed out that the number of health plans that offer gym memberships has risen from four in 2002 to 58 in 2008.

Insurance companies often are accused of “cherry picking” healthy enrollees, often by nefarious means such as excluding applicants with pre-existing conditions or even a less-than-perfect health history. However, it is hard to be worked up about this strategy. It is open to everyone 65 and over, and gym memberships benefit both the company and the individual. It’s a win-win by any definition.

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