Joanne Wu, writing in the Annals of Family Medicine, suggests that we dismantle the health insurers' "pay for performance" ("P4P") programs in favor of "pay patients for performance" (PP4P). As blood pressure control, cholesterol treatment, cancer screening rates or fitness rates increase, she proposes that patients receive "health care credits" in the form of lower co-pays, discounts or premium reductions.
Good idea, says the Disease Management Care Blog, but:
1) Long standing regulations stand in the way. Health insurance regulators generally frown on programs that compromise community-rated risk pooling that gives everyone the same benefit for the same price. ERISA-protected plans, on the other hand, have greater latitude in flexing their insurance benefits.
2) Politics stand in the way. Opponents argue that persons less well off will be unfairly disadvantaged by wellness incentives. You can read more about that here.
3) Doctors stand in the way. Last but not least, insurers generally fund P4P by diverting the money from the providers' inflation-adjusted or market-driven fee schedule increases. In other words, taking P4P money from the docs and giving P4PP to the patients ain't gonna easily happen.
That being said, the DMCB thinks Dr. Wu may be onto something. She recommends a pilot be tried in a small community. Given the downstream savings, we'd be foolish to not take every advantage we can to achieve patient buy-in, and a pilot sounds like a grand idea.