You’ve probably heard a lot about the new healthcare reform bill; sometimes you hear stuff that’s to its credit and sometimes it’s the other way. The healthcare reform bill promotes an idea that hasn’t really brought as much attention on it as it should. The revolutionary idea has to do with paying people to learn healthy habits for life that’s longer and healthier.
There is a federal grant program that gives states $100 million each every year to help them fund the reward system. Anyone who is on Medicaid, if they would make a credible effort to quit smoking, to lose weight or to eat healthier, gets a reward. The federal government has been trying to pressure states into doing something to lower their Medicaid costs. They’ve pretty much tried everything short of bribing people into taking care of their health. And now, the new experiment plans to see how this goes.
Medicaid is a program that helps poor people get free healthcare. People who receive Medicaid care are usually deeply impoverished people – people to whom even a small financial reward would mean a lot. Medicaid recipients make a great starting point in testing behavior modification with financial bribes. They would be really receptive to accepting money to learn healthy habits for life. Still, while people have successfully been bribed in the past to do some things that are good for them, bribing people into learning healthy habits is never been done before.
All of this is an outcome of the importance that the Obama administration attaches to preventive healthcare. It is the belief of this government that a great deal can be done about chronic diseases if people would only pay attention to healthy habits and preventive care. So far, there have been several state governments have come forward to try the plan.
So how exactly will people be rewarded? People who are on Medicaid and who have a smoking or weight problem, if they would do something like sign up for a tobacco cessation program or weight management classes, would be rewarded with gift certificates or coupons. If they actually do manage to quit smoking worth or to lose weight, the rewards become bigger.
The government’s focus on teaching people healthy habits for life could hardly be more timely. The country spends about $2 trillion a year on chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Tobacco habits account for a half-trillion dollars of healthcare spending. Rewarding people to take care of their health could have a spectacular effect on the kind of savings the country makes.
Still, the government doesn’t have any programs in place that would allow it to gather data on how effective these incentives are. And then, the government really hasn’t done a good job putting the word out. Most people aren’t even aware that they can receive money for learning healthy habits.
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