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Cost-effectiveness of financial incentives for improving diet and health through Medicare and Medicaid: A microsimulation study

PLoS Medicine Apr 05, 2019

Given that improvement in healthier behaviors may be achieved with economic incentives via health insurance, researchers examined the health and economic impact of incentivizing diet through Medicare and Medicaid. Two policy scenarios (a 30% subsidy on fruit and vegetables [F&V; “F&V incentive”] and a 30% subsidy on several healthful foods—including F&V, whole grains, nuts/seeds, seafood, and plant oils [“healthy food incentive”]) were evaluated via nationally representative data and a validated microsimulation model. The investigators found that, over a lifetime, 1.93 million cardiovascular disease (CVD) events and 0.35 million CVD deaths could be prevented—and $40 billion in healthcare costs could be saved—by providing an F&V incentive. Prevention of 3.28 million CVD cases, 0.62 million CVD deaths, and 0.12 million diabetes cases and saving of $100 billion in healthcare costs could be achieved with a healthy food incentive. Findings supported that substantial health gains with high cost-efficacy could be achieved with implementing healthy food prescriptions within large government healthcare programs to promote healthier eating.

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