06/23/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Lesson From Insurers on How to Get Filthy Rich

In America, our work ethic is next to none. We work longer hours each day, more days per week, and more weeks per year than just about anywhere else on Earth, with the possible exception of Japan. When the French are sunning themselves for three weeks on the beaches of Malta, we are seated at our cubicles humming along to the buzz of the soul-sucking fluorescent lighting. Why do we do this? If you answered "To get ahead" you'd be wrong.

Despite all our long hours, and our two-income households, we're not any better off. In fact, one look at consumer debt averages across the country would suggest that we seem to be slipping. We don't save and we spend what we have and then some. And we run ourselves ragged in the process. It also causes us to cut corners. All that time we spend sitting at our computers working on whatever it is we work on is time that we don't spend with our families, relaxing, unwinding, fostering relationships, or even exercising. In fact, we rarely sit down at the table for a meal anymore, because we don't have time. Despite all the time saving technology that exists to make our lives easier, we find that there are still too few hours in the day, so we swing through the drive-thru at McDonald's on our way to or from the office.

As a result of all this, our bank accounts are no better off, while our relationships suffer, our emotional and mental health languishes, and our physical health deteriorates. As Marc Ambinder explores in detail in a recent article for The Atlantic, we are a fat, fat people. Burning the candle at both ends is only good for one group: Candle makers.

In this analogy, the candle makers are the insurance companies.Why? Because, according to a recent study out of Harvard, health insurers take the money they make off of you and I and invest it in--of all things--fast food corporations. Do you need more proof that they don't want us to be healthy? If we stay well, they win--because they keep our premiums and don't have to pay out claims. If we get sick, they win--because they get a cut of all that money we've been spending on Big Macs. It's a win-win business model for them and a lose-lose deal for us.

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