More reasons to expect health insurers to nose in to your private life

Yesterday (When Progressive’s Flo follows your health) I wrote about how Progressive Insurance’s Snapshot device, which provides discounts for safe drivers based on monitoring of their driving habits, could come to health care within the next decade. If people are willing to trade in their privacy for discounts on a relatively small-ticket item (car insurance) they are likely to be willing to do so for health insurance, which costs much more. And if individuals don’t like it, their employers still might push for it.

Today’s Wall Street Journal (Doctor’s Order: Test at Home But Don’t Forget to Call) makes me think the scenario I laid out is even more likely. A new analysis demonstrates that home monitoring of conditions like hypertension can succeed if the monitoring is thorough and if physicians set up the infrastructure to deal with the flow of data. With high blood pressure in particular, it’s helpful to have frequent readings to get an accurate idea of what’s going on and to guide interventions. Patients with tightly controlled blood pressure are likely to incur much lower medical expenses than those who are out of control.

One way or another I expect patients who are more compliant with their physicians’ instructions and undergo more monitoring will be charged less than those who want to be unhooked. Exactly how this unfolds will depend on who bears the risk (insurance company, doctor, or patient), the specific condition, and government policy. But I do expect it to occur.

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By David E. Williams of the Health Business Group.

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