The Federal Healthcare Reform bill includes a $100 million grant to reward Medicaid Recipients for Healthy Habits. While States have some flexibility in how to institute the programs, the programs must address one of the provided prevention goals: tobacco cessation, controlling or reducing weight, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and diabetes prevention and management. In return, successful Medicaid recipients will receive some sort of financial incentive.
While it has been argued by many that a key to Healthcare Reform is preventative care, behavioral incentive programs have been largely untested in this demographic. This begs the question whether or not these incentive programs are the best use of the Federal Grant monies? If the Federal Government wants to encourage preventative care, would the $100 million not be better invested in the creation of community programs catered to these goals?
There is also little research on the long term effects of these programs. Does short term success lead to long term changes, or does Mr. Medicaid Recipient use the $25 gift card, he received for getting his blood sugar tested, to purchase a box of Doughnuts?
What is a known fact is Hospitals and Healthcare providers are struggling to deal with the burdens of uncompensated care and over utilization by the demographic that is eligible for Medicaid benefits. This $100 million grant could go a long way in reaching out to possible new Medicaid recipients, and in educating current recipients on the correct utilization of services provided. Why not solve a more pressing problem in the Medicaid system before we begin to use scarce funds for untested incentive programs?