THE BLOG
06/22/2010 10:34 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

It's in Your Best Interest

"Now, a controversial, and seemingly counterintuitive, effort to tackle the problem is gaining ground: paying people money to take medicine or to comply with prescribed treatment. The idea, which is being embraced by doctors, pharmacy companies, insurers and researchers, is that paying modest financial incentives up front can save much larger costs of hospitalization." - The New York Times

To our valued health insurance customers:

Due to recent reports that our gentle reminders, "trusting that you're adults capable of taking care of simple, everyday things," and sending individual statistical analyses of how much likelier you are to die each day that you continue unmedicated, have not been effective in getting many of our patients to take their prescribed medication, we're offering a series of new incentives to our most valued, and least responsible, customers.

Because buying compliance has seemed to work pretty well on the doctor side of the equation, we're unveiling our "Bills for Pills" program. You make sure to take your life-saving medication every day, and we leave monetary surprises under your pillow. Think of it as a sort of "keeping your teeth" fairy -- you do what should be coming naturally, and we reward you for it.

That tooth fairy analogy is more apt than you'd think, incidentally, as we will be occasionally entering your home to make sure that the words "honor system" mean something to you.

Doesn't sound enticing enough for you to take an active part in staving off your own death? Alright, for you we're willing to cover your insurance costs for as long as you maintain your medication schedule.

You have money in your pocket each and every month, and we have a significantly smaller chance of having to pay for the multiple heart attacks that you seem perversely set on inducing. Everyone wins, except you actually win twice. Although judging from your compliance so far, maybe we're wrong in assuming you think of "not dying" as a win.

We'll even throw in a gift card for Outback Steak House, but for each blooming onion purchase you make with it, you'll owe us one month's premium. That's only fair.

Okay, fine -- you have us over a barrel here. We know a few people in state government, and if you promise to take your pills as prescribed, we can get you three out of the five weekly lotto numbers. Bet you never "forget" to get those tickets, huh?

Fine, four out of the five, but we will not get you the Powerball. You have to take responsibility for yourself on that one.

Well alright, we can get you the Powerball, but only once a year as a special treat if you're very, very good.

Still nothing? Really?

You know what, screw you guys. If giving you things isn't gonna work, how about we start taking? How much do you like your kneecaps, bearing in mind that once our HMO-approved "physician" Boris gives them one of his "checkups," you'll arrive at the hospital only to find out your coverage has mysteriously lapsed? You remember when we sent you that reminder that not following up on medication may result in a heart attack, stroke, or major organ failure? What, did you think we were bluffing? Did you? TRY US.

Okay, okay, that was rash -- we're sorry. We didn't mean to upset you. We just wanted to try some tough love, but we promise we won't do it again if you just take your pills, sound good?

You may think we're only doing all this for ourselves, but really, you have every reason to take your medication, and judging from your chart, if you persist in not taking it, you'll have a few more by New Year's.

Reasons, or chins -- however you want to interpret that.

Pretty please, take your pills. Pretty please with a cherry on top? And whipped cream?

Seriously, we're begging you, just take your medication! Doesn't it embarrass you just a little to see a grown businessman begging for something so simple, something he shouldn't even have to be asking for, let alone groveling abjectly at your swollen and cracked feet?

Because it certainly doesn't seem to embarrass us.