Incentives Can Engage Consumers To Improve Health And Lower Costs

Wellness program incentives can improve health and lower costs, according to research from insurer UnitedHealthcare. Employees enrolled in UnitedHealth Group plans saved $107 million in health costs over the first 36 months, the report noted.

“Payers can play an important role in engaging consumers and realizing the promise of a truly activated, engaged and supported patient,” said Simon Stevens, UnitedHealth Group executive vice president and president of Global Health. “Our report offers practical lessons for policymakers and suggests how Medicare and Medicaid could benefit from improved patient engagement. If likeminded strategies were used more broadly, they could be an effective tool in helping to improve quality and achieve a more efficient health system.”

Employees rewarded for good health. UnitedHealth Group employees enrolled in “Rewards for Health” program are eligible to earn points to qualify for insurance premium reductions of up to $1,200 per family per year for having health screenings to detect conditions like cancer or diabetes, or meeting certain targets such as body mass index (BMI) reductions.

In the first 24 months, 82 percent of employees earned points, and improvements were made in all quality measures over three years with particularly large increases identified in wellness visits and office-based screenings, colorectal cancer screenings, and retinal eye exams for people with diabetes.

In addition, 7,200 employees at high risk for diabetes were given the opportunity to better manage or prevent onset of the disease. In addition, 44 percent of overweight employees who engaged in health coaching improved the following year, with an average of 4.5 percent weight loss. Savings of $107 million in health care costs were realized in the first 36 months of the Rewards for Health program.

“Our own experience with our 133,000 employees shows that rewarding healthy behavior works,” aid Lewis Sandy, executive vice president of clinical advancement at UnitedHealth Group. “Implementing patient-engagement strategies more broadly could have a profound impact on consumer health, help achieve wide-scale cost reductions and advance a higher-performing health system.”

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