Are Carrots Good for Your Health? Current Evidence on Health Behavior Incentives in the Medicaid Program

Policy Brief

Are Carrots Good for Your Health? Current Evidence on Health Behavior Incentives in the Medicaid Program

Published date

June 30, 2018

Medicaid beneficiary incentives for health behaviors have become popular in recent years, with multiple states and Medicaid managed care organizations designing incentives to target various health conditions and populations. Yet, there is limited evidence on how well these programs work, and the overall impact is mixed on whether they improve people’s health and reduce health care costs. Some incentive programs, like those targeting one-time behaviors and smoking cessation, have stronger evidence on improving health outcomes.

There are multiple operational challenges to implementing these incentive programs. Nearly every state and Medicaid managed care plan administering an incentive program underestimated the time and resources needed to establish it. These administrative challenges affect whether states are able to enroll Medicaid beneficiaries in the programs and whether the program meets its goals of improved health and lower cost.

Duke-Margolis Affiliated Authors

Robert Saunders

Robert Saunders, PhD

Senior Research Director, Health Care Transformation
Adjunct Associate Professor
Senior Team Member
Margolis Core Faculty

Japinga

Mark Japinga, MPAff

Research Associate

William K. Bleser - Margolis headhot

William K. Bleser, PhD, MSPH

Assistant Research Director, Payment Reform and Population Health
Senior Team Member
2020 Intern Mentor
Anti-Racism and Equity Committee Member

Charlene Wong

Charlene Wong, MD, MSHP

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Margolis Core Faculty
2020 Intern Mentor