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04/30/2014

Can Behavioral Economics Lower Healthcare Costs?

rwjfInsurers can use behavioral economics, which examines why people make certain decisions and then determines how to influence said decisions, to compel members to improve their health, according to research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“I don’t think there’s any question that behavioral economics approaches have a lot of potential to contribute to healthcare,” Kevin Volpp, director of RWJF’s behavioral economics program said Tuesday in a statement. “At the same time it’s also true that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to figure out how those approaches can optimally contribute to healthcare.”

Experts in behavioral economics believe people don’t always behave in their own best interest, which is why so many people overeat and don’t exercise, for example. Volpp also stated people tend to take the “default option,” or whichever option requires the least amount of effort. So policymakers and healthcare organizations hope to encourage constructive decisions.

“Behavior is at the root of many of our biggest healthcare problems,” Peter Ubel, a physician and behavioral scientist, explained in the report. “If you’re trying to change behavior, you need to understand behavior, and interventions need to take advantage of what you understand about behavior.”

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