Want to Get Paid to Eat Well? It Now Might Be Possible

Want to Get Paid to Eat Well? It Now Might Be Possible

It pays to eat healthfully — literally.

Earlier this month, John Hancock Insurance announced a potentially huge financial incentive for making healthy choices, the latest move in an industry that’s becoming more wellness conscious.

Getting Paid to Eat Well

As of April 6, John Hancock Insurance policyholders with the company will be able to earn discounts, including cash back on groceries and premium discounts in return for buying fruits, vegetables, nuts and other nutritious items, USA Today reported.

man woman grocery shop fruit healthy eat well

“It’s designed to recognize that nutrition, and particularly nutrition combined with exercise, is really the best recipe for living a long and healthy life,” said Michael Doughty, president of John Hancock Insurance, told the paper.  “If we can play a role in helping our customers in doing that, it’s going to be good for them and good for us as a company.”

These perks come as part of Hancock’s year-old Vitality program, which rewards some plan participants for things such as regular exercise or getting an annual physical. The program can already report success: Participants in the Vitality program take more than 9,200 steps per day on average — twice the national average, the company reports.

And these changes are good for the insurance business, Doughty added. “It’s really three things that cause more than half the deaths in the U.S.,” he said. “People smoking, people not eating nutritious diets and people not engaging in enough physical activity. If our customer base can get better in those three areas, they’ll live longer, which means we’re not going to have to pay out claims as quickly.”

The Benefits of Workplace Wellness

Some employers have long offered workplace benefits for those who do not smoke. Many companies and health insurance plans also offer incentives for establishing healthy habits, such as discounted gym memberships. But Doughty said Hancock is the first to offer financial incentives for eating well. The new cash back programs add up to a maximum benefit of $50 per month, or $600 per year.

For companies enrolled with such insurers, the perks could help attract and keep talent, particularly younger employees. As an article in The Harvard Business Review said, “Not only are wellness programs valuable for the organizations and their employees … they are our biggest hope for fixing a national health crisis.”

There’s evidence wellness plans can reap benefits for a company’s bottom line, too. Another Harvard Business Review article noted the benefits of Johnson & Johnson’s corporate wellness plans, including one with a focus on smoking cessation. From 2002 to 2008, J&J estimates savings of $250 million on health care costs because of its programs — an ROI of $2.71 for every $1 spent.

Under the Affordable Care Act, these savings could be even higher.

The makings for a successful program can vary, but HBR identified some common characteristics — including several that align with our principles. Namely, that wellness initiatives should be fun (as ours’ are!) and that they should promote incremental healthy behavior changes, rather than unhealthy behavior bans or total-habit overhauls (check!).

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