Should our health insurers try to nudge us toward the healthiest habits possible, like eating fresh, healthy food and exercising regularly? Or should they just give up, accept Americans’ crappy habits and hope that we do less healthy versions of unhealthy things, like eating giant plates of whole-wheat pasta? Reader Scott wonders whether that’s what his health insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, is up to with a package of coupons that they sent recently.
We see where the confusion comes in: what would you expect to find in an envelope that says “Healthy Savings” on the outside?
“My insurance company just sent me coupons for… mayonnaise, ice cream, and pasta,” Scott wrote to us. “Howsabout a $5 voucher to use at my farmers market or produce section instead?”
That’s not foolproof, either. You can buy vegan marshmallows and chocolate-covered waffles at my local farmer’s market, and the vouchers that food stamp and debit card customers can buy at the entrance can also buy, say, cheese curds and heavy cream.
Are these items from large food companies like Best Foods, Blue Bunny, and Ronzoni “healthy?” Not really. Are they “healthier?” Yeah, they’re probably healthier than the regular mayonnaise, sugar-filled ice cream, and regular pasta that customers are eating now.
The problem with healthier versions of unhealthy but delicious foods is that they can instill a false sense of accomplishment: just because something is less terrible for you, that doesn’t meant that you should eat more of it. Use the coupons if you want to, but it’s okay to eat just about anything in moderation.