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RUTLEDGE: Smile and the world of health insurance smiles with you


Saturday, March 18, 2017

While Congress is working to further screw up the state of health insurance, it's worth noting that even for those fortunate enough to still have employer-based coverage, things have changed. In addition to higher premiums and more limited coverage, for instance, the questions have become more probing and personal.

It used to be that when you started a new job with health insurance benefits there was one question: "Family or individual plan? Mark the appropriate box."

Those two little boxes have multiplied like rabbits. Now they want to know all of our innermost secrets.

I consider myself lucky to be working at a community college with a decent health plan. The most economical family option requires my wife and I to answer a long list of questions as part of a yearly "well-being assessment." It feels more like a "risk assessment" for the insurance company.

Filling out this year’s online questionnaire, I was tempted to put down the unhealthiest answers I could think of just to see how far I could take it before men in white coats storm my office with a defibrillator.

I also considered requesting a deferment based on the fact that I will represent my department during the college’s annual student/faculty/staff dodge ball tournament — where slow, unhealthy types are in the bleachers eating buttered popcorn.

But there are harsh consequences for frivolous or dishonest answers, and my family’s health benefits are on the line. Still, it’s fun to imagine.

Actual question: "Did you feel sad yesterday?"

Fantasy answer: "Only for about 20 minutes — the travel time between my recliner and more doughnuts from Krispy Kreme."

Actual question: "Does your daily diet include five servings of fruits and vegetables?"

Fantasy answer: "Thanks a lot. You just made me snort my double-shot Caramel Brûlée Latte all over the computer screen."

Actual question: “Have you received a flu vaccination this year?”

Fantasy answer: “So the government can track my every movement? I don’t think so.”

Of course I played it safe and went with honesty and straightforwardness. And because I exercise regularly and have given up a few unhealthy habits, I got smiley faces on nearly every question. My overall score was slightly less than perfect, though, mostly due to a frowny face beside the five servings of fruits and veggies.

Looking back, I think I could have said yes to that one and still pass the polygraph. I might or might not eat veggies every single day, but I make up for it with fruit.

Half a banana and raisins on cereal, plus orange juice at breakfast. That’s three servings of fruit right there. A whole banana during lunch makes four. And if I don’t have a fruit or veggie during dinner, I’m covered by my mid-morning snack — golden raisin cinnamon Breakfast Flats.

Those things are like crack with coffee. And they’ve got your whole grains, your fiber, fruit and no artificial coloring. My only complaint is that they only come three to a pack. Sad.

Did I say sad? I meant glad. I’m glad for the lower number of calories per serving.

So glad. Smiley faces all around. Please don’t raise my premiums.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.