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5,000 steps a day to avoid paying higher health insurance costs? When money talks, people walk
Date:5/7/2013

ANN ARBOR, Mich. It was a controversial move when a health insurer began requiring people who were obese to literally pay the price of not doing anything about their weight but it worked, a new study finds.

When people had to choose between paying up to 20 percent more for health insurance or exercising more, the majority of enrollees met fitness goals one step at a time via an Internet-tracked walking program, according to a joint study by the University of Michigan Health System and Stanford University.

Researchers evaluated a group of people insured by Blue Care Network who were enrolled in a pedometer-based program as a requirement to receive insurance discounts. After one year, nearly 97 percent of the enrollees had met or exceeded the average goal of 5,000 steps a day including the most resistant participants who disagreed with the financial incentives and found the program "coercive."

"There are ethical debates around the idea of forcing someone to be personally responsible for health care costs related to not exercising, but we expect to see more of these approaches to financially motivate healthier behaviors," says senior author Caroline R. Richardson, M.D., assistant professor in the U-M Department of Family Medicine, investigator with the VA Center for Clinical Management Research 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."

The new findings appear in Translational Behavioral Medicine.

Blue Care Network created a buzz when it implemented one of the largest-scaled financial incentive programs in the country by requir
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Contact: Beata Mostafavi
bmostafa@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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