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Note on Health Policy

Paying for health in a low-income population

Financial incentives are an attractive intersection of behavioral economics and health. On the provider side, pay-for-performance was initially popular, but it has been hard to demonstrate lasting value. On the customer/patient side the data is better, and it is also possible to segment the specific behaviors and populations to be targeted. This well-done study released today in the American Journal of Health Promotion looked at the effect of financial incentives for weight loss in an uninsured population in rural Mississippi. Although suggestive, the study showed no significant benefit. The authors suggest that the reason might be the population, but I suspect that the reason might be because their study was so carefully and rigorously done. The benefit of patient financial incentives for health behavior changes is not clear (see our post from January 8). We need better studies to learn the best framing, the appropriate population segments, and the length of effect for financial incentives, as there is likely a benefit for this approach. I hope that the authors of today’s paper, based at Mathematic Policy Research Inc., take part in these studies.

See abstract here.

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