Bribes have often been used to modify behavior. Pavlov proved that with his scientific experiments. The question now is whether bribes will modify behavior toward maintaining or obtaining wellness and by eliminating bad habits.
We will soon know the answer since the Senate has passed a provision in the new health bill called the Safeway amendment, allowing employers to design health insurance wellness programs. Provisions will offer $200 million in grants and provides for wellness incentives to be added to individual insurance exchanges in 10 states or more by 2014.
By meeting targets set by healthcare providers, employees will be eligible for incentives of 30 to 50 percent rebates in insurance costs as well as free benefits like gym or Weight Watchers memberships. If the target is not met, penalties will come in the form of higher insurance premiums and copays.
Targets will take the form of maintaining regular exercise programs, weight loss, smoking cessation and regular annual physical examinations or preventive care appointments.
The Safeway amendment has been favorable to both Democratic and Republican parties, uniting incongruent groups like the Humana insurance company and Third Way, a progressive think tank. David Kendall, from the Third Way voiced support because it concentrates on transitioning health care toward results and preventive care, empowering employees to take a more active role in self-care.
This addresses today’s biggest problems- obesity and getting patients to exercise and maintain a proper diet. Two-thirds of people in the U.S. are overweight. Obesity accounts for 10% of current healthcare costs in the United States with high blood pressure, two and a half times the incidence of heart disease and 20 times the incidence of diabetes, which contributes, to rising costs.
Cleveland Clinic has already put an incentive program into practice as has General Electric and FedEx with North Carolina designing a program for public employees.
Already Cleveland Clinic has appreciated measurable benefit to its program as witnessed by 112,000 pounds lost in the first nine months by 40,000 employees enrolled in the Healthy Choice Rebate Program. Incentives include rebates of $217 a year with a promise to keep the premiums the same each year.
So before you take a bite of that jelly donut, think twice. Staying on track really will be putting your money where your mouth is.