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What Would Incentivize You to Get Healthy?

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

In case you haven’t noticed just about every health care agency in the world is trying to get you to get healthier in various ways. From shopping vouchers to cash incentives to free Apple watches with a built-in exercise monitor, the list of rewards being offered for making positive health choices is growing longer by the day.

The only question, BBC suggests, is which incentives — or proverbial carrots — work best. To that end, all eyes are on the Apple watch incentive: Will people actually keep up an exercise program if they know the watch is going to tell on them when they don’t exercise?

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The first thing that comes to my mind when health incentives are mentioned is an image of all the flu vaccine promotions going on right now. From billboards to TV commercials to signs in your local big box store, you’ll see that you can get “free” flu shots along with “free” groceries, gas, pizza and cash — just to name a few — if you submit to a flu vaccination.

On the flip side, we’re also hearing about things that can be taken away from you if you don’t get a flu shot — specifically, your job if you work where flu shots are mandatory. The thing is there’s virtually no good scientific evidence to support such claims.

If health and safety were really the chief aim of this forced vaccination policy, why not mandate vitamin D testing and optimization, since vitamin D supplementation has been shown to be 10 times more effective than getting a flu shot if you are vitamin D deficient? But, what would the financial incentive be for that?

Unfortunately, the incentive for companies to force flu shots on health care workers appears to be the financial penalties hospitals and other medical care facilities face from the federal government if their vaccination rates are too low. Since 2013, hospitals have been required to report influenza vaccination rates among hospital personnel under the federal Medicare quality care reporting program.

The goal of officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to achieve a 90 percent health care worker vaccination rate by 2020 and a key strategy for meeting this goal is to tie a health care facility's employee flu vaccination rate to the facility's Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from the federal government.

In other words, health care facilities participating in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Inpatient Prospective Payment System Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program that fail to meet a 90 percent employee flu vaccination rate now get reimbursed 2 percent LESS from Medicare and Medicaid.

So, who came up with this strategy? A key "mastermind" behind the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, abbreviated as ACA, but colloquially known as Obamacare, was Elizabeth Fowler, chief health policy counsel to the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus. Evidence suggests Fowler drafted the entire legislation.

Fowler, a poster child for the revolving doors between industry and government, then went on to sliding into a senior executive position with pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, as vice president of its global health policy, government affairs and policy group.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. The flu vaccine “incentive” has nothing to do with incentivizing you to get “healthy,” and everything to do with filling in drug companies’ bottom lines and keeping the swinging doors between government and drug companies freely moving.

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