GOP Senator Advocates Incentives for 'Healthy' Behavior

Coming soon: A check in the mail if you purchase the skim milk instead of the whole milk at your grocery store? That sort of sounded like what Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas is advocating as an alternative to some of the more costly solutions proposed by President Barack Obama and his surrogates.


Cornyn appeared at the June 23 Heritage Foundation’s Bloggers Briefing to give his thoughts on the government’s involvement in the health care debate and he cited a June 12 Wall Street Journal op-ed written by Steve Burd, CEO of Safeway Inc. (NYSE:SWY), and the founder of the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform.


“Now Safeway operates on financial incentives,” Cornyn explained. “If you are a smoker and you quit smoking, or you try to quit smoking – they will give you a rebate on your health insurance premium. If you’re obese and go on a weight reduction program – they give you money back and their obesity rate, Steve Burd says, are about 70 percent of the population, generally speaking.”


Having this incentive plan would offer better results than government supervision of a healthy lifestyle, according to the Texas senator.


“[Burd] says they don’t subsidize healthy alternatives in their cafeteria,” Cornyn said. “If you want a cheeseburger and fries, then you’re going to pay full freight for it. So there are all sorts of ways I think through aligning incentives rather than through the punitive hand of government control – that we can get at healthier people encourage them to take care of themselves and make it financially and otherwise advantageous for them to do so.”


But, according to the Journal piece written by Burd, his methodology of lowering health care costs in the private sector runs into obstacles due to federal limits in place preventing companies from matching “the true incremental benefit of not engaging in these unhealthy behaviors.”


However, eliminating these regulations would be key in accomplishing Cornyn’s goal to “bend that curve” in the cost of health care.


“So I think there is a lot of freedom to do things that will not empower the government but empower us and help bend that curve in health care costs by demonstrating successes like those,” Cornyn said.