Do you have a license to be careless?

Just because you have health insurance doesn't mean you can follow an unhealthy lifestyle

illustration of burning cigaretteWe all know how uncomfortable and miserable it is to fall sick, and the various restrictions and losses disease entails. Earlier, disease also meant a lot of expenditure.

But much has changed of late, thanks to health insurance that comes to the financial rescue of the common man.

Today, health is indeed about wealth. But taking care of our health involves not only purchasing a good insurance cover, but also a lot of wisdom, will power, maturity, and common sense.

Insurance is a correct step, which we should take towards healthcare, but it is by no means the end of the journey.

As far as health insurance is concerned, there are three categories of people—those who don’t believe in any form of insurance; those who take a health policy but don’t pay heed to their health; and those who take a health cover and also focus on good health.

Health insurance, like other aspects of life, needs to be approached with a balanced outlook. It’s not just as a license to do as you like with your health. Because though health insurance pays for your illness, it doesn’t save you from falling ill.

Today, with life becoming fast and highly stressful, the number of young individuals contracting lifestyle diseases, like hypertension, diabetes, strokes and high cholesterol is on the rise.

It is common to hear of people as young as 25 or 30 dying of a heart attack. Life has become more unpredictable than ever before. Education and work has become highly competitive and rigorous.

Given this scenario, since it is often difficult to avoid long hours of work, excessive travel, late nights, and the stress of paying off high value loans, coupled with the escalating cost of hospitalisation and medical treatments, the first wise thing that a man should do, is to insure himself and his family, both against premature death and against illness. This is more of a necessity than a luxury.

However, most people start and end their healthcare with buying heavy insurance policies. Having done this, they feel that now even if something happens to them, their family will not suffer.

And hence, throwing caution and common sense to the winds, they indulge in food and drink, stay up nights, compromise on rest and relaxation, and indulge in overwork—all because they feel a false sense of security derived from having health insurance.

“Even if anything happens to me, my family will not suffer, and I will not have to pay heavy medical bills because I have insurance”, seems to be the lopsided logic.

What they forget is that if they were to come down with some serious disease, the insurance company might pay for the treatment, but it will in no way reduce the pain, agony and suffering caused by the disease either to them or their family members.

And if they die, while the money from the insurance will help the dependents, it won’t compensate for the loss of a near and dear one.

It’s important that one understands these facts when taking a health cover. Continuing to smoke, drink, worry and exert yourself just because you are covered by insurance is a foolish rationalisation and can lead to serious problems. This type of thought process needs to be avoided.

Life is highly unpredictable, and insurance policies are based on this unpredictability. If we knew our future, half the world’s population would obviously not insure themselves.

Hence, given the uncertainties of life, and the cost of living and inflation today, financial assistance, which an insurance policy gives, is definitely needed. There is no argument on that.

But one should not stop there, as far as health is concerned. Along with health insurance, one needs to concentrate on maintaining good health, by cultivating good habits and by avoiding bad ones.

A wise, mature individual is one who uses health insurance as a hedge against future eventualities, prevents financial crisis because of health issues and works hard on one’s health to see that such eventualities do not occur.

P V Vaidyanathan
Dr P V Vaidyanathan, MD, DCH, is a Mumbai-based paediatrician in private practice, hobbyist writer, and author of a book on childhood stress management.


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