Study Results Show Medical Expenses Reduced with Preventive Health Program

Results were just released from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolinaç—´ (BCBSNC) two-year study (2005-2006) of a preventive health program comparing participants average medical costs before and after enrolling in the program.

Simple lifestyle changes added up to big savings $187 annually per participating member in BCBSNC's Healthy Lifestyle Choices a program that offers tools and resources to help participants engage in regular exercise and nutritious eating. Savings over the two-year period totaled $437,729 for the 1,171 participants studied. Medical expenses were one-third less than the average medical trend. The implication: Living a healthier lifestyle can save money.

'The evidence speaks for itself. There's money to be saved when people get serious about their health,' said Helen Darling, president of National Business Group on Health. 'Businesses should take note, that healthier behaviors not only result in healthier workers, but it's one way to keep rising medical costs in check. Now that's a result we can and should go after.'

In addition, participants significantly increased how many days they exercised each week and ate more fruits and vegetables. The results suggest that inactivity and obesity aren't just personal risks people take, but are contributing to the rising cost of health care.

'Our job is to help people live healthier lives,' said Dr. Don Bradley, a family physician and chief medical officer at BCBSNC. 'We know it痴 the right thing to do, and now economically, it looks like the smart thing to do. This isn� just a quick fix. We池e looking for a true lifestyle change and that's why we offer people the tools they need over the long-term to improve their health.'

According to a 2007 report by the Trust for Americaç—´ Health, North Carolina has the. 'Why wait until something happens, when you can take charge and try to prevent issues?'

The success of Healthy Lifestyle Choices has led BCBSNC to expand its healthy living offerings. The program is now part of BCBSNCç—´ Member Health Partnerships(SM), which gives members access to a wide variety of health and disease management resources. Participants receive a step counter, lifestyle diary and a stress management CD. They also have access to helpful online tools that guide them in making decisions about their fitness, stress levels and eating habits.

Recently added benefits include one-on-one health coaching, where members can talk to a registered nurse about losing weight, chronic conditions or other health issues. Most members who enroll also have access to six free nutritional visits.