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NEW YORK — Rebates on healthy foods may lead patients to purchase them more frequently, according to a new study by researchers in South Africa.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examined a program offered by Discovery, South Africa's largest health plan. The HealthyFood program provides a cash-back rebate of up to 25% on healthy food purchases in more than 400 designated supermarkets around the country.
Examining supermarket scanner data from between 2009 and 2012 linked to 170,000 households with Visa credit cards, 60% of which were eligible for the rebate, the researchers found that rebates of 10% to 25% for healthy foods were associated with a 6% increase in the purchase of healthy food relative to total food.
In September 2012, Walmart and HumanaVitality a subsidiary of Humana that is a partnership between the health insurer and Vitality, itself a subsidiary of Discovery, introduced a pilot program to try the same thing in the United States. Under the program, HumanaVitality members get 5% savings when they buy products at Walmart that qualify for the mass-merchandise chain's Great For You icon, including fresh produce and low-fat dairy.
"Price is an important factor in incentivizing wellness in America," Walmart president for health and wellness John Agwunobi said. "By offering affordable, healthier foods, we will help make our customers healthier and reduce costs to our healthcare system as a whole."
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