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Friday, October 24, 2014 | Last updated: 6:32am

Insurance companies should consider individual backgrounds, not just costs



One-third of all U.S. adults are now classified as obese and projections estimate that by 2025, more than half of all U.S. adults will fall into that category. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, 19.3 percent of U.S. adults and 20 percent of college-age people (18-24 years old) were smokers.

These issues have prompted a new buzz about healthcare that will have an effect on smokers and individuals who are considered obese.

A lot of critics of the current health care system claim the high costs associated with insuring people who smoke or are obese are fiscally unsound because they do not want to change their ways. It goes back to the question of why companies should insure someone who will have more health issues and die sooner when the money could be spent on someone else who is healthier. After all, most don’t need insurance when death is knocking.

Under the new Affordable Health Care Act, which will go into effect next January, health insurers will be able to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums.

Although the act does not allow anyone to be denied healthcare because of pre-existing conditions is not allowed, smokers and obese people can still be penalized.

This issue shouldn’t be about saving money, but rather about understanding the unique situations of the people in these two populations and enabling them to better their lives. There need to be more educational programs and initiatives to teach individuals how to be healthy on their own.

As college students, we all know that maintaining a healthy lifestyle on a budget can be tough. Dollar menus and high-calorie, high-carb, saturated meals are a lot more accessible and cheaper than healthier alternatives. Our environment plays a huge role in shaping the choices we make. Furthermore, being in college is one of the first times that we have to make these kinds of choices for ourselves, so this time is paramount in shaping our habits for the rest of our lives.

David Salafsky, the director for the Health Promotion and Preventive Services through Campus Health Service, said that college is a time where students are making a lot of decisions, many “that can have an effect in their adult life.”

His department aids UA students in making healthy choices in all aspects of their lives through resources like educational programs, events and media campaigns. There are also two nutritionists on-site who can teach students how to plan a healthy diet.

“By and large we have a healthy population,” said Salafsky, who added that his department’s continued efforts to increase resources for students, like the new smart icons coming to the Student Union Memorial Center to help identify healthier options, will aid students in working toward a healthier lifestyle.

Programs like these could decrease the rates of obesity and smoking in our community.

All of us can agree that some people are healthy and some just choose to live an unhealthy lifestyle. That’s life. However, how can we be the judge of who will get insurance in emergencies, or if those emergencies have any correlation with smoking or being obese?

We shouldn’t be quick to pass judgment on people without knowing their stories. Let’s give people a chance instead of demonizing them from the get-go.

—Razanne Chatila is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on twitter via @WildcatOpinions


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