Can rewards make people healthy?

The federal health care reform law includes a $100 million program to reward Medicaid recipients for making healthy choices–but experts aren’t sure the incentives will work, Aimee Miles reports in Kaiser Health News.

The program is intended to reduce Medicaid costs by rewarding patients for such things as quitting smoking, losing weight or keeping their blood pressure under control. Such incentives have shown promise in some circumstances–but not all. And they have not been widely tested in the Medicaid population.

One study found that 15 percent of those offered $750 to quit smoking successfully gave up cigarettes, compared with 5 percent of those weren’t promised a reward. A similar study found that people offered incentives to lose weight dropped more than those who weren’t–but the losses were largely temporary.

“Without health education and other forms of engagement, [offering incentives] seems to fall short,” said Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “The incentives are never going to be enormous because it’s never going to be affordable.”