Humana partners with Wal-Mart to offer discounts on healthy foods

The goal is to make low-calorie items less expensive and encourage people to maintain a healthy weight.

By — Posted Oct. 9, 2012

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Physicians caring for patients insured by Humana soon will be encouraged to tell them that they can get a discount on healthy foods sold at Wal-Mart stores.

Starting Oct. 15, members participating in the HumanaVitality wellness program will be eligible for a 5% rebate on foods that qualify for Wal-Mart’s “Great for You” labeling initiative. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean meats are among the 1,300 products available.

Members must register on the program’s website (link) and take a health assessment. A gift card is then sent to them. The 5% rebate from purchasing healthy food is deposited on the card. Participants can use the money to buy anything sold by Wal-Mart.

Information about the program will be included in regular communication from Humana to physicians, who will be asked to tell patients about the effort.

“We know physicians have close relationships with many of our members and that relationship is trusted,” said Joe Woods, CEO of HumanaVitality, a Humana subsidiary. “We want to let physicians know this program is available for their patients.”

Health insurers and employers have long sought ways to make it easier for people to eat healthier because obesity has been linked to higher health costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 33% of U.S. adults are overweight and 36% are obese. Six percent are extremely obese.

Some insurers mail select patients coupons for healthier food. Others, through a foundation arm, support organizations working to make healthier food more widely available in communities with few good grocery stores. The Humana/Wal-Mart arrangement is believed to be the first program of its kind between a national insurer and a large retailer.

A HumanaVitality survey found 84% of HumanaVitality members said a savings program would motivate them to purchase healthier foods. Other studies have suggested that lowering the price on these foods makes consumers more likely to buy them. But research does not say whether such incentives will lead to patients losing pounds or maintaining a healthy weight.

“It’s an intriguing program,” said Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “What’s going to be difficult is to assess the impact. I doubt they will have any clean measure of what people are doing now and what they do with the rebate.”

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn