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Can movie passes and other perks encourage patients to make healthier choices?


Taking a page from the credit card industry's playbook, health insurer Humana has created a new wellness program that rewards patients for healthy behaviors with points to use towards entertainment or travel purchases.

The wellness program HumanaVitality, launched in partnership with South Africa-based Discovery Holdings, is aimed at reducing medical claims and out-of-pocket health costs for Humana members. Through the program patients accrue points for weight management, not smoking, flu shots and regular health screenings. Points can be used to score such goodies as free or discounted airline tickets, hotel stays, movie tickets and music downloads.

While it's too early to know if HumanaVitality can successfully encourage patients to change their lifestyle, American Medical News reports that such rewards systems could become more common:

Shelly Wolff, health and productivity leader for human resources consulting firm Towers Watson, said Vitality's frequent flyer-style rewards program is in line with an industry trend to offer points and significant financial incentives for healthy behavior.

Employers and benefit experts continue to experiment to see what kind of rewards promote sustained healthy behavior -- daily exercise, healthy eating habits -- rather than short-term changes, she said.

The practice has evolved from offering trinkets like T-shirts and key chains to discounts on health insurance premiums and other valuable rewards such as the travel premiums that Vitality offers.

Previously: Trying to cut health-care costs by improving consumer behavior
Photo by Justin Baeder

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