Humana and Kaiser Permanente are health insurance companies that encourage prevention through financial reward; participants who exercise and make healthy lifestyle choices receive lower insurance premiums. Both programs provide incentivized rewards based on collective health improvements. Participants are assessed by body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and smoking rates. Activity is strongly incentivized, and it is measured with tracking devices: The more people move, the less they pay. With millions now enrolled in these incentive-based wellness programs, data suggests that health behavior among enrollees is rapidly changing for the better.
This model can be applied on a broader scale to the U.S. government, other health insurance companies, and private companies. Each of these entities can use similar incentive programs—including tax incentives—to encourage health and prevent disease.
For example, instead of giving a tax credit for shipping a pet, the government could credit joining a gym. While music lessons are a noble pursuit, the current tax deduction for clarinet lessons to reduce overbite seems overly specific compared to crediting regular attendance at an exercise class to improve overall health. A few simple changes to the tax code would pay off many times over.
Boston and the Boston Medical Center have the right idea.