Stay Fit And Travel For Free

John Connolly, a health care consumer advocate with Castle Connolly Medical Limited, tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler CBS/The Early Show

Did you know insurance companies and HMOs are now offering incentives to keep their customers healthy? John Connolly, a health care consumer advocate with Castle Connolly Medical Limited, tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler you can even get money off on your premiums.

He says, "In fact, Aetna has a program where you can track what you do on a computerized version of a monitoring system. You can report it to your employer, and your employer can provide incentives for you in terms of additional money to use towards your healthcare, your deductibles, for example, or financial rewards if you stick to a good healthy lifestyle."

He notes incentives like this (or trips to Europe) make members feel like they are getting something for nothing and, at the same time, it keeps members loyal to their healthcare plan. For the companies, it keeps costs down. He says many of these incentive programs attract younger healthier customers, especially if they are offering something like free membership to a health club.

How much the individual consumer saves, depends on the plan. But, Connolly notes, when you're looking at these incentives, make sure they are really as attractive as they sound. Ask if the free club membership is just for a year, or does it go beyond that?

Many plans also offer smaller incentives such as free T-shirts, health seminars, and free yoga classes. All these incentives are geared toward keeping people in shape and thinking more about their health, he says.

To monitor that their customers are in compliance, insurance companies and HMOs often require proof of purchases or will ask you to show a card if you're a member of a health club. However, many of these plans rely on the honor system.

The following are Connolly's tips, if you are interested in qualifying for these incentive programs:

Stop Smoking: Studies show that if you quit smoking, you significantly cut your risk of getting diseases such as heart disease or lung cancer. So if you're a smoker, you're going to have to quit if you want to enjoy any of these incentives.

Exercise Regularly: Again, people who exercise are healthier, so these insurance plans are going to be expecting their customers who sign up for these incentives to take care of themselves.

Eat A Healthy Diet: A healthy diet is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that eating certain fruits and vegetables may ward of certain diseases and it's also important to eat a healthy diet so you don't gain too much weight.
  • Tatiana Morales

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