New Program Pays People to Take Their Medicine

Cost-saving idea, or slippery slope?
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2010 12:55 PM CDT
Should we pay people for taking their medicine?   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Chiquita Parker used to sometimes forget to take her lupus medication. But now the 25-year-old single mom remembers religiously, because she’s part of a Philadelphia program that enters her to win up to $100 every time she remembers to down a pill. In six months, she’s made $300. Paying patients to take care of themselves might seem bizarre, but proponents believe the program could actually reduce health care costs, the New York Times reports.

In theory, paying people to medicate properly—up to half of all patients don't—is cheaper than hospitalizing them. One researcher estimates that 10% of hospitalizations result from patients who get sicker because they don't take their medications as prescribed. Many other researchers, doctors, and insurers agree—Aetna is co-funding the Philly experiment. But others fear the implications. “Once you start paying people to take medication, when do you stop?” wonders a British NHS official.

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