Being healthy has its obvious economic incentives, like fewer hospital visits, more energy and a smaller grocery bill.
But being healthy not only saves you money but can also earn you money.
Going off the idea of providing high school students cash incentives for good grades, businesses are now providing cash incentives for their workers to make healthy choices.
Quit smoking and earn cash
Toss out your lighter and General Electric will pay you $750 over the course of a year. That’s $100 for finishing a cigarette quitter class, $250 for staying smoke-free for six months, and $400 for not smoking for a year.
Since cigarette costs are rising and since cancer treatments are very expensive and often force smokers out of work, quitting smoking is a very smart financial decision.
The cash incentives have been mildly successful. Smokers who enrolled in the program quit smoking 10% more than the control group.
However, the number of smokers quitting overall is only 15%. Therefore, the quest to get smokers to quit continues onward.
Cash incentives for weight loss
The cash incentive program was also tried for weight loss. Participants of a study were paid $3 a day for meeting their weight loss goals.
There was a second group that was invited to participate in a cash lottery that could earn them up to $100 if they won.
The study found that the first group lost an average of 14 pounds, the lottery group lost an average of 16 pounds and the control group lost on average 4 pounds.
I.B.M offers its own cash incentive program
I.B.M. incorporated the cash incentive program by asking its workers to track a variety of health goals including nutrition, exercise and cigarette quitting. If participants met their goals, they could earn up to $300. Now, the smoking rate at I.B.M is down to 10%.
Why do companies care so much?
Because they care about the health and vitality of their employees. Hah! Besides developing a good public image, many of these companies are likely giving out cash incentives in order to lower health insurance costs, as those who smoke tend to have higher health insurance premiums.
Cash incentives have been proven to work, but they can potentially backfire. For one, this cash incentive program has a high potential to be exploited.
Most of these programs last no longer than one year, only requiring participants to meet the minimum requirements for a year in order to earn the cash incentive.
Also, those who do not make bad health choices are likely to feel left out. Why should only those who make bad health decisions receive incentives?
Why can’t those who made smart health decisions from the beginning receive bonuses for keeping the employer’s health premiums low?