States' Medicaid healthy living push could be accomplished in better ways

LETTER — Posted July 3, 2006

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Regarding "New law lets states get tough on benefits for Medicaid patients" (Article, June 12): Rewarding healthy lifestyles is absolutely the way to reduce health care costs in this country. However, I don't think the methods employed in Kentucky, West Virginia and Idaho are optimal:

1. It makes no sense to penalize children for the actions of their parents.

2. Restricting the number of medications covered per patient endangers patients' lives.

3. Penalties which are not financial (not covering diabetic education, nutritional education and tobacco cessation programs) are unlikely to motivate your average deadbeat.

4. A healthy lifestyle should not be defined by showing up for doctor visits and such. You can lead a healthy lifestyle and not be a compliant patient.

Here are some better ideas:

1. If you lead a healthy lifestyle, your co-pays for medications and doctor visits are lower.

2. A healthy lifestyle is defined in terms of objective measurements of weight loss and smoking cessation (absence of nicotine in the blood stream, for example).

3. Children are not included in the healthy lifestyle incentives.

Matthew Gray Beckwith, MD, Hagerstown, Md.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/07/03/edlt0703.htm.

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