Iowas Medicaid Expansion Promoted Healthy Behaviors But Was Challenging To Implement And Attracted Few Participants
Author: Natoshia M. Askelson, Brad Wright, Suzanne Bentler, Elizabeth T. Momany, Peter Damiano
As part of Iowa’s Medicaid expansion, the Healthy Behaviors Program was designed to provide members with incentives to complete specified healthy activities in return for waiving monthly premiums. We used claims data and interviews to document the first year (2014) of the program’s implementation. Healthy activities completion rates did not exceed 17 percent. Interviews with members and clinic managers revealed low levels of awareness of the program’s existence, deficits in knowledge about how the program works, and a variety of barriers to activity completion. Our findings suggest that the lack of knowledge hindered the state’s ability to incentivize activities and that it subjected beneficiaries to premium expenses and potential disenrollment. These results should guide federal and state policy makers in devising more effective ways of educating Medicaid beneficiaries and providers about programs that incentivize responsibility for healthy behaviors. The results suggest that efforts by federal and state governments to reform Medicaid by shifting responsibility onto program members for healthy behaviors are unlikely to succeed, especially without careful thought and design of premiums, penalties, and incentives for participants.