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Are Health Plans That Cover Yoga the ‘Next Frontier’?

When a leading benefits consultant writes an article in the Harvard Business Review recommending that health plans cover yoga, it should be glaringly apparent that we have perverse incentives in U.S. health benefits:

Cigna insurance CEO David Cordani says the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ recent payment changes that emphasize quality over quantity in healthcare will shift the focus on “sick care to more well care.” But a widespread embrace of diet, fitness and other wellness programs is still a way off....

Insurers should cover “new wellness- and prevention-oriented treatments such as yoga and meditation, Sukanya Soderland,” a partner in consulting firm Oliver Wyman’s health practice, wrote recently in the Harvard Business Review. (Jayne O’Donnell & Laura Ungar USA Today)

Are we really meant to believe that employees cannot pay for their own yoga classes? Especially as the so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-cost employer-based health plans is going to start sinking its teeth into those plans, why would any employer want to increase the likelihood of incurring that tax liability by channeling more of employees’ compensation into health plans that pay for benefits like yoga?

Obamacare incentivizes insurers to attract the healthy and shun the sick. It looks like it is increasingly happening in employer-based benefits, too.

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For the pivotal alternative to Obamacare, please see the Independent Institute’s widely acclaimed book: Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman.

John R. Graham is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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