Dangling A Carrot For Patients To Take Healthy Steps: Does It Work?

Kaiser Health News, December 5, 2017

Health plans, medical practices, and some Medicaid programs increasingly offer financial incentives to motivate Medicaid patients to engage in more preventive care and make healthier lifestyle choices.

This article first appeared December 05, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Anna Gorman

(Illustration created using Getty Images)

Patricia Alexander knew she needed a mammogram but just couldn’t find the time.

“Every time I made an appointment, something would come up,” said Alexander, 53, who lives in Moreno Valley, Calif.

Over the summer, her doctor’s office, part of Vantage Medical Group, promised her a $25 Target gift card if she got the exam. Alexander, who’s insured through Medi-Cal, California’s version of the Medicaid program for lower-income people, said that helped motivate her to make a new appointment — and keep it.

Health plans, medical practices and some Medicaid programs are increasingly offering financial incentives to motivate Medicaid patients to engage in more preventive care and make healthier lifestyle choices.

They are following the lead of private insurers and employers that have long rewarded people for healthy behavior such as quitting smoking or maintaining weight loss. Such changes in health-related behavior can lower the cost of care in the long run.

“We’ve seen incentive programs be quite popular in the insurance market, and now we are seeing those ramp up in the Medicaid space as well,” said Robert Saunders, research director at the Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University.

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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