Paying Patients To Switch: Impact Of A Rewards Program On Choice Of Providers, Prices, And Utilization

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Employers and insurers are experimenting with benefit strategies that encourage patients to switch to lower-price providers. One increasingly popular strategy is to financially reward patients who receive care from such providers. We evaluated the impact of a rewards program implemented in 2017 by twenty-nine employers with 269,875 eligible employees and dependents. For 131 elective services, patients who received care from a designated lower-price provider received a check ranging from $25 to $500, depending on the provider’s price and service. In the first twelve months of the program we found a 2.1 percent reduction in prices paid for services targeted by the rewards program. The reductions in price resulted in savings of $2.3 million, or roughly $8 per person, per year. These effects were primarily seen in magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasounds, with no observed price reduction among surgical procedures.

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