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Surprising Science

Medicaid as Preventative Medicine

The federal government is offering grant money to states that pay Medicaid patients to live healthier—the program is an experiment in deflating the ballooning costs of American healthcare.

What’s the Big Idea?

In 2009, 17.3% of America’s economy, in terms of G.D.P., was devoted to healthcare. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, that’s more than any other country on the planet. The rising costs of healthcare in America are unsustainable. We need a less expensive healthcare system and a healthier population that works to prevent disease before requiring treatment. What if Medicaid were able to stop people from smoking and overeating before it had to pay for lung cancer and diabetes treatments?

What’s the Most Recent Development?

The federal government is offering states $100 million dollars to incentivize good behavior among their Medicaid patients. Individuals who enroll in weight loss programs or counselling sessions to quit smoking will be eligible to receive financial rewards such as gift certificates. The program is an experiment to gather data on whether positive reinforcement can change a large population’s health for the better. Programs that pay people to live healthier lives have already been implemented in West Virgina and Idaho, but they are too new and not large enough to draw any definitive conclusions.


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