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THE FORMULA FOR A LONGER LIFE

Want to add 11 years to your life?

If so, the formula is simple: Just stop smoking and drinking, eat less fatty meat, and be sure to buckle up that car seat belt.That's the advice from most physicians, based on the discoveries of medical science in recent years. But, human nature being what it is, it's hard to get many Americans to take it.

Maybe that's because the prospect of a longer life span seems too remote and elusive. But what about the more immediate prospect of fattening one's wallet? That inducement could be strengthened if more insurers would adopt the reforms that some progressive firms already have embraced.

Noting that bad health habits are responsible for 60 percent to 70 percent of all health insurance claims, many state health regulators around the country would like health insurers to charge higher rates for people who smoke, are overweight or have high blood pressure.

The suggestion is only simple justice. People who conscientiously watch their diets should not have to pay for someone else's bad health habits in the form of needlessly high insurance rates.

Such a move would also help put the emphasis where it belongs - on staying well and limiting hospitalization, with its stiff expenses, to cases where it is absolutely essential.

Meanwhile, anyone in the market for health insurance would do himself or herself a favor by shopping around for policies with discounts for those who avoid tobacco and liquor and who maintain acceptable blood pressure and weight.