Should Insurance Companies Pay for Gym Memberships? (by Cameron Miller)

November 28th, 2012

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you as a student of Portland Community College in hopes that I display the need for better health within the community. More specifically, I would like to showcase the benefits of having insurance company coverage on health-club memberships.  There are a myriad of case studies demonstrating the benefits for the insurance companies as they save in both areas of preventable surgeries and monthly medicines, in addition to the obvious health benefits such a policy would have for the customers.  It is unfair that financial barriers can stand in the way of anyone with a desire and the motivation to improve their personal health simply because they cannot afford a gym membership.

As the weather in the Portland area shifts into what we fondly know as the “rainy season” the activities of our daily lives are accented by torrents of rain and colder temperatures.  Such shifts may not influence much in terms of our regular schedules, however, for those without access to an indoor workout facility, it may signal an eight-month hiatus of their exercise routines simply because they can no longer complete their workout outdoors.  The studies proving the preventative and health benefits of exercise are numerous and we know regular exercise can improve nearly every aspect of an individual’s well-being.  The idea that such benefits may be restricted to those who can afford a monthly gym memberships – which generally begin at a minimum of 20 dollars per month – is appalling.  I am of the firm belief that a lack of motivation should be the only barrier in which an individual should be required to overcome on the journey to better wellness and health.

By funding such gym memberships, insurance companies are not only providing an ethically sound service for their customers, they are also increasing their personal profit margin.  In recent years, Medicare has begun providing gym memberships for those they insure and have found a dramatic decrease in costs associated with surgeries directly linked to issues that can be reverse by regular exercise in the customers who are taking advantage of the service.  They have also found that the amount spent on prescriptions such as insulin have been decreased as customers utilize their gym memberships and their body regained a level of health that rendered the medicine no longer required.  Medicare members who made use of the benefit have also personally reported a higher level of overall health through surveys.

The opponents of insurance companies being required to implement such a policy claim that the return on investment would not be as notable as the proponents claim as customers would file for reimbursement for their gym membership, yet never attend – and the insurance companies would not see the profit on their preventative care.  Such critics are creating superficial issues out of desperation.  Policies could be implemented that required customers to check in a minimal amount of times each week to receive the reimbursement or require that they log their workouts online.   This would guarantee that the money is simply not being wasted.

Insurance companies should be required to refund their customers gym membership fees in both an effort to increase the health and wellness of the community and remove the financial barrier for individuals wishing to begin or continue exercise routines, while also simultaneously saving money in preventive surgeries and medicines.  Please, contact your insurance company and request the benefit that you deserve.

Thank you,

Cameron Miller

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THE RESEARCH COLLECTION

Research collection based on the following question: Should insurance companies pay for gym memberships?

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Scott, Chey. “Employers With Wellness Incentives, See Healthier Staffs.” Journal Of Business (10756124) 27.5 (2012): B5. Regional Business News. Web. 29 Nov. 2012

Summary: The article reports on the wellness-incentive program of employers from Spokane, Washington for their employees to attain an active lifestyle. Kevin Klein of Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington states that an increase in the implementation of wellness programs was observed due to the interest shown by employers and employees. Furthermore, the benefits for active employees include discounts on health insurance plans, reimbursements in gym membership, and weight loss competitions. The article continues to provide information on how the incentive programs work, and benefit for both sides.

The Washington, Post. “Insurers covering gym memberships: Health advance or selection tool? Insurers covering gym memberships: Health advance or selection tool?.” Washington Post, The 1: Newspaper Source. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Summary: Dangerous gym plan? It sounds like a great idea: private insurance plans in the Medicare Advantage program offering gym memberships – a small investment that could curb health-care costs among seniors. But what some see as innovation, others view as a stealth campaign to lure the healthiest seniors into the private plans while leaving Medicare with the worst risks. This article explains the double edged sword of insurance companies paying gym membership fees.

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Chordas, Lori. “Here’s To Your Health.” Best’s Review 106.12 (2006): 52. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Summary: The article focuses on the cooperation between insurers and employers to provide wellness programs in hopes of creating healthier and more productive employees in the United States. This demonstrates that wellness programs of companies help curb rising health care costs. Wellness program include membership discounts in local gym to on-site natatoriums. It also provides a great list of factual evidence proving the benefits of covered memberships.

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Salamon, Maureen. “Covering Gym Fees Might Be Money Saver for Medicare.” US News. Ed. HealthDay. U.S.News & World Report, 11 Jan. 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://health.usnews.com/health-news/managing-your-healthcare/healthcare/articles/2012/01/11/covering-gym-fees-might-be-money-saver-for-medicare&gt;.

Summary: The article examines the differences between seniors who are on medical plans which cover health club membership fees and members who are not. The evidence surrounding the differences in health via observations and surveys demonstrates the benefits of insurance companies offering more coverage. In turn, it ends up being a strong and attractive business proposition as well.

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3 comments

  1. Glenda Lopez

    Cameron,

    I had never even heard that insurance companies could cover the cost of memberships and after reading this well composed letter, I without a doubt agree. I do agree with you that insurance companies should be covering more to do preventative care rather then jumping in when many patients are on life time medications such as for diabetes which has become a national epidemic.

    It was shocking to know that with such statistics/studies done around this insurance companies saving money around surgeries and medications they are still hesitant with the coverage of this option. It is very cliche to say be it would be a win win situation for all. A family member who is a nurse at OHSU currently is being actually paid for losing weight, this money she used for a gym membership. She shared that it is an initiative in which OHSU wants healthier staff will mean a decrease in insurance costs for their employees. From what I understand it will be about $300 a year and other perks they offer, it is so amazing to see how such a big employer cares for their employees but more then anything for their health and saving money over time.

    Great information, had never thought into it nor had I even thought of the idea of health insurance companies pay for gym memberships but with would be beneficial for a country that has obesity and other chronic illnesses on the rise due to poor eating and exercise habits.

  2. Arianna

    FEEDBACK –
    I have never thought about this topic until now! I think that would be great if our insurance paid for a gym membership. We fork out hundreds of dollars each month for insurance so the least they could do it take 20 to 50 out of that and pay for our memberships. I am one to work-out outside and I will be one to say that I don’t work out as much in the winter because it’s too cold or it’s pouring down rain, or both. And here in Portland, as we know, it rains 8 to 9 months out of the year, which can make doing anything outdoors difficult.
    The statistics you have about the people on Medicare who had their gym memberships paid for is incredible. I feel like all insurances should follow in their footsteps and help the people who can’t afford a membership. I know at first a lot of the insurers wouldn’t like to have to pay for our membership but it would save them money in the long run! I really like the writing that you did and it was a very persuasive piece!

  3. Scott McDonald

    Great topic! I feel strongly about exercise and the benefits that come from it. My persuasive letter had to do with the lack of physcial education programs for kids in schools and resulting in higher percentages of obsesity. Your research question is a simlar theme but related more to adults. As you mentioned, preventative and health benefits of exercise are numerous and we know regular exercise can improve nearly every aspect of an individual’s well-being. You would think this would be important to insurance companies as it would limit the number of claims. Great point about Medicare providing gym memberships for those they insure. My Mother n law just retired and is now on Medicare, and the insurance agent reiterated your point of the gym memberhip being included. Nice job backing up that statment with the fact that “they have found a dramatic decrease in costs associated with surgeries directly linked to issues that can be reverse by regular exercise in the customers who are taking advantage of the service” I like how you combat what the critics say about wasting money when people don’t use the gym membership, It’s easy to have the person log in the # of times they go and have to meet a requirement to be reimbursed. I have worked for companies that do that very same thing. And their thinking is the healthier their employees, the less work they miss, and the more prodcutive they are. Great work and very persuasive!

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