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The Chicago Tribune reports on how UnitedHealthcare has created a program called Healthy Savings, designed to promote healthier eating.

According to the story, "Insurers often tell their customers to eat healthier and exercise, and they have a financial motive: Promoting health and wellness may reduce illness and medical costs. But it's not easy to reach consumers. UnitedHealthcare is trying something different.

"The nation's largest health insurer has launched a digital coupon program with select supermarkets in which members save money when they buy fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread, lean proteins and other qualified foods. The goal is to make healthier food more affordable, said Craig Bartholomew, vice president of account management in UnitedHealthcare's Illinois market."

"The USDA encourages higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are typically more expensive than processed foods. A 2011 study found that purchasing foods that provide important nutrients such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium could add up to $380 annually to consumers' grocery bills."

The story goes on: "Public policymakers have made efforts to help consumers eat healthier — food-assistance programs, for example, provide coupons to buy fruits and vegetables. Now the private sector is starting to put its money where its mouth is."

Milwaukee and Chicago are the first two markets where UnitedHealthcare is testing the program. UnitedHealthcare doesn't choose the items on sale each week, but rather depends on Solutran, described as a "payments processor with experience in the Women, Infants and Children food-assistance program." And Solutran "uses food-rating company Guiding Stars to select products using the company's formula to rate nutritional quality based on information from food labels."
KC's View:
This makes perfect sense. It may cost money to underwrite the price reductions, but you'd think in the long run that it would have a positive impact on insurance payouts. I love this.