Marissa Vicario, Contributor, HuffPost
It’s an unfortunate reality that healthcare costs are rising at rapid rates. According to the 2016 Kaiser/HRET Employer Health Benefits report, the cost of the average family plan rose faster than wages and inflation since 2015 — up 3.4 percent to $18, 142, the highest spike in 32 years.
It’s still too early to know how the Trump administration will affect these costs in light of its recent changes to healthcare law, but considering that the biggest driving factor for rising healthcare costs is chronic disease, it’s time to take matters into our own hands.
The scary truth is that half of all U.S. adults have an expensive-to-treat chronic disease like cancer, diabetes or heart disease, which account for 86 percent of all healthcare spending, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While not every chronic disease is preventable, the CDC estimates that eliminating the three biggest risk factors – poor diet, smoking and inactivity – would prevent 80 percent of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes and 40 percent of all cancer.
If the CDC’s claims are true and an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure, then health coaching has the potential to save the modern world.
A health coach is a supportive mentor and wellness authority who works with clients to help them improve their overall health through dietary and lifestyle changes. Until ten years ago, health coaching was almost unheard of, but in the past few years it has experienced explosive growth as one of the fastest-growing careers in the US.
I know claiming that health coaching is the answer is a bold statement to make and it may not be the whole answer, but it is emphatically what has been missing in healthcare for so long. Let’s consider the ways health coaching is becoming an integral part of the U.S. healthcare system:
- Doctors are relying on health coaches as partners in their practice or by referral to help patients connect the dots on nutrition and enforce better dietary habits. Historically, doctors haven’t been trained on nutrition and those who are understandably don’t have the time to work with a patient in such a capacity.
- Most functional medicine doctors, who work to treat the underlying cause of disease with both holistic and traditional approaches, incorporate health coaching into their patient programs. Many of these doctors have a team of health coaches who work with patients in their office.
- Insurance companies are hiring health coaches to deliver prevention programs to patients and at-risk communities.
- Some insurance companies are now offering reimbursement or allowing allocation of flexible spending or pre-tax dollars to go toward health coaching.
- Some insurance plans offer health coaching programs for subscribers and more are forecasted to join the movement.
- Last Congress, the Health and Wellness Coach Resolution was introduced in the House and will be re-introduced this Congress. The Senate version of the resolution will also be introduced this year.
- Health Coaching was added to the House and Senate Health Savings Acts of 2016, which would include health coaching as a “qualified medical expense.”
As we near the end of National Health and Wellness Coach Week, a week to recognize and honor the work health coaches are doing to address the global health crisis and championed by a group of bi-partisan members of Congress, consider how a small investment in your own health now may safeguard you against expensive chronic disease later.
Collectively, we have the power to lower healthcare costs and end the healthcare crisis in the US.
Here’s what you can do:
- By making an investment in working with a health coach, you have the power to lower your individual health care costs
- Speak to your employer to ask for in-office wellness programming or insurance benefits that include health coaching, which can ultimately lower insurance premiums for your employer.
- Research your existing insurance plan to determine if health coaching is covered partially or in full.
- Ask your doctor for a referral to a health coach – the more patients request access to health coaches, the more doctors will consider adding a health coaching element to their practice if they don’t already.
- CLICK HERE to sign the Change.org petition to encourage Congress to continue to support the Health and Wellness Coach Resolution