The Boomers’ Expanding Waistlines Bodes Dangerously for Medicare

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Baby Boomers are more obese than other generations, setting them up for unhealthy senior years: “For all the talk of ’60 is the new 50′ and active aging, even those who aren’t obese need to do more to stay fit.”

It’s a scary portent of things to come, warning of greater rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and the leading cause of reduced activities of daily living: Arthritis.

We clearly need some common-sense methods of helping the Boomers be more aware and proactive about their health in their later years, ideas that speak to the “one true thing” about Medicare beneficiaries: “If they ain’t sick today, they’re gonna be.”

I got a letter this morning from Cass Apple in Atherton, CA in response to last week’s Wall Street Journal story on Medicare cost shifts with just such an idea and I thought it needed to be heard.

Cass points out that “individual actions greatly affect the cost of health care… Current practice and law encourages annual physicals, during which height and weight are always measured.  Physicians could report this only for individuals who had a body mass index below 25 and agreed to the reporting…That would qualify the individual for a fitness reward shown on every paycheck stub (Virtually no administrative cost for this).  The amount would be no greater than the present value of the expected savings versus projected cost for individuals with BMIs over 25…computed annually. For example, the payroll tax is 1.45%, the Medicare Fitness Reward might be a separately shown credit of 0.75%…shown as a separate item on every pay stub.  Why?  Because future health is long-term and most people focus on the short term.  They would see the reward every two weeks…and it is not difficult to imagine people bragging about it…”

Great thinking, Cass…common-sense, nonpartisan, and likely effective.  Let’s hope we see it and other novel ideas on a list of savers as we find our way out of our debt crisis.

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