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Money or Health?

Despite their complaints that a controversial program was “coercive,” people faced with paying up to 20 percent more for health insurance chose to exercise instead. In other words, when money talked, they walked.

Researchers with the University of Michigan Health System and Stanford University evaluated the people insured by Blue Care Network who were enrolled in a program that tracked their daily steps with digital pedometers. After a year, almost 97 percent of participants—even those who disagreed with the financial incentives—had met fitness goals to average 5,000 steps a day. They walked, so they received an insurance discount.

“There are ethical debates around the idea of forcing someone to be personally responsible for healthcare costs related to not exercising, but we expect to see more of these approaches to financially motivate healthier behaviors,” says the senior author on the study, Caroline R. Richardson, M.D., assistant professor at U-M and member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

"Our evaluation of Blue Care's incentivized program showed a surprisingly high rate of people who enrolled in the Internet-mediated walking program and stuck with it — even among those who were initially hostile to the idea. Wellness interventions like this clearly hold significant promise for encouraging physical activity among adults who are obese."

Would you exercise to avoid paying higher health insurance costs?

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