Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Debit cards reward Medicaid patients for care

Managed Health Services on Monday announced a new debit card program that rewards patients for making regular trips to the doctor, taking their babies in for checkups and getting screened for several conditions.
Participants can earn between $10 and $20 on their cards for each visit or screening. They can then use the funds to buy health-related items like cough syrup or thermometers.
"What we're trying to do is promote the healthy behavior and make sure the people are getting the right things that they need," said Pat Rooney, president and CEO of Managed Health Services, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based health insurer Centene Corp.
Patients can earn $15 simply by visiting a primary care doctor within 90 days of joining the program. An annual checkup leads to another $20 deposit on the card.
Parents who take their newborn children for required checkups can receive $10 per visit. The program also serves children covered by the State Children's Health Insurance Program up to age 20.
Money also can be earned through screenings for breast and cervical cancers, diabetes and the venereal disease chlamydia.
"A lot of times when a member joins the plan they are pregnant, and we want to get that chlamydia screen done as soon as we can," Rooney said.
In some cases, patients might add more than $100 to their card over a year, Rooney said.
Managed Health Services is one of three companies that administer Medicaid coverage in Indiana. The card applies only to patients under their plan.
Rooney said Managed Health Services debuted a similar program more than a year ago in South Carolina, and patients appear to be seeing their doctors more since that program started.
"Just getting people in to see their primary care doctor is always a challenge with this population," he said. "They tend to want to go to the emergency room for care."
Arizona State professor Marjorie Baldwin said she'd like to see incentives like this for preventive care in health insurance. She notes that other forms of insurance give discounts for preventive measures like smoke alarms in a home.

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