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3 Reasons to Use Healthy Incentives for Medicaid Enrollees

Posted, by Rachel (Merkin) Welt on 12/15/2016

Do you use your health plan as a trusted advisor to guide your healthy lifestyle initiatives? If you do, you’re not alone. The fact is, health plan enrollees, especially those enrolled in public health plans like Medicaid and Medicare, look for guidance and incentive reinforcement on how to live a healthy lifestyle. Health plans are not accustomed to dealing with this new, more open, inclusive style of interaction with plan enrollees.

However, the opportunity to interact with them, encouraging healthy behavior (which brings down overall plan costs) is real, and it’s important. The goal for health plans should be to break down the wall between health plans and their users.

Here are 3 reasons to use healthy incentives for public health plan enrollees:

1. Specific rewards reinforce healthy behavior better than general rewards

A new study completed by MacPac, a Medicaid lobby, lists inconclusive evidence around the use of healthy incentives for Medicaid enrollees. However, the study does not address specific rewards related to supporting a healthy lifestyle; rather, it only covers general rewards, i.e. cash. The specificity of rewards, as they relate to an enrollee’s health and wellness, is critical to the success of the incentive-based program.

Our conclusion is that if you use rewards that reinforce healthy behavior, you’ll see more conclusive results. This makes sense, as these rewards reinforce the behavior you are looking to promote. Whether it is fitness based, or healthy nutrition based, or even based on a specific biometric goal, like lowering blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol, the bottom line is: the more specific you are, the more direct the outcomes are for enrollees.

2. Health plan enrollees want incentives and discounts for healthy behaviors

Case in point: a recent HealthEdge study touting the opposite of the MacPac study, released evidence that not only are 42% of health plan enrollees of all kinds “very interested” in incentives for healthy diet and/or exercise, but 52% are also “very interested” in discounts for healthy behaviors.

Additionally, enrollees look for gift cards over any other material reward. Gift cards are uniquely specific, because they can support a component of an enrollee’s new and/or improved healthy lifestyle. Gift cards address the required specificity of the healthy incentives required for health plan reward programs.

3. Consumers look to their health insurer for guidance on healthy behaviors

The two studies referenced above are Medicaid and Health Insurance Industry surveys that are time-consuming to read and process. If you want the bottom line, here it is: consumers WANT to be reinforced for healthy behavior.

Most importantly, they are looking for guidance from their health insurer, whether private or public, on what a healthy lifestyle is and how to live it. The message for public health plans looking to incentivize their employees? Give the people what they want, in a specific, meaningful way. 

Especially during the holidays (and into the new year), when temptation abounds, keeping public health program enrollees on track to maintain their biometric levels/healthy lifestyles is important. As a health insurer that advises enrollees on healthy behavior, it needs to be a priority.

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