Friday, June 12, 2009

Using Incentives

One of the current national debates is about how to control health care costs. It is easy to point to issues of supply and demand and how these forces affect the cost of health care.

One can also discuss the disconnect between many consumers of health care and the payment system that reimburses the producers. (I'm ignoring copayments not because they don't matter, but because there is often a disconnect between copayments and the cost of the treatment.)

But today there was an interesting opinion piece in today's issue of The Wall Street Journal by the CEO of Safeway. It seems that company is using a basic concept of economics to help constrain costs. By linking an employee's share of the cost to employee behavior (smoking, weight, heart health, etc,) Safeway is providing an incentive to change behavior.

While some may not respond to the incentive (their marginal cost/benefit analysis may be such that they choose not to), others have changed behavior - improving their health and reducing their draw on the health care system.

It's an interesting article and worth "filing away" for next fall.

Take a look and share your thoughts.

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