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The Los Angeles Times reports that insurance company Anthem Blue Cross says it is endeavoring to be more that just a health plan for its members, and is trying to influence their eating habits by sending out coupons for various kinds of foods.

Except that, as the Times points out, those coupons are not always for fresh foods and healthy products, and sometimes are for things like ice cream, processed meats and mayonnaise.

According to the story, "Kristin Binns, an Anthem spokeswoman, said the coupons are from a marketing company called Linkwell Health, which has partnered with the insurance giant to encourage more healthful eating choices ... Binns said Anthem receives no money from coupon providers and leaves all such deal making to Linkwell. But the campaign is being offered under Anthem's imprimatur, with letters to members signed by the senior medical director for Anthem Blue Cross of California."

The idea, Binns tell the Times, "is that many people will buy ice cream or mayonnaise anyway, so why not steer them toward products with lower calories or sodium counts?"
KC's View:
I think the Times makes a legitimate point about what Anthem is doing; there does seem to be something a little counter-intuitive about sending people coupons for stuff that may not be good for them. Though, as some will point out, there are no bad foods ... just people with poor eating habits.

Still, the whole thing does sort of suggest that what Linkwell is really good at doing is selling a coupon program. And the scenario suggests to me that all businesses have to be careful about consistency of message, and about who they go into business with. You may think you are outsourcing a function, but you can't outsource responsibility for your reputation.