EmblemHealth Members Get Paid to Eat Healthy

Health Bucks offer access to fresh fruits and vegetables for better overall health

New York, NY (December 8, 2014) – A pilot program created by EmblemHealth, the New York health insurance and wellness company, has paid out thousands of dollars in Health Bucks – redeemable for fresh fruits and vegetables – to members who participated in healthy activities and got the preventive services they needed.

In 2014, EmblemHealth introduced the Local Fruit and Veggies Program to members who enrolled in one of the company’s exchange plans through the NY State of Health Marketplace. More than 270 members signed up for the program. Participants were required to have an annual check-up with their primary care physician and enroll in two hours of healthy activities at an EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care location in Harlem, Cambria Heights or Chinatown. In exchange, they received $30 per individual or $60 per family per month in Health Bucks, coupons administered through the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to be redeemed for fruits and vegetables at any of the more than 140 participating farmers markets throughout the city.

Offering Health Bucks helped make local fruits and vegetables more accessible to those who completed the program. More than 90 percent of participants who completed the program reported they shopped more often at the farmers market and ate more fresh fruits and vegetables because they had Health Bucks.

For Radhica Butisingh of the Bronx, participating in the Local Fruit and Veggies Program helped her make significant changes to her health and wellness. "My entire life has changed. I’m more physically active now," she said. "I take yoga, tai chi and other exercise classes on Fridays and Saturdays at EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care in Harlem and I’ve lost weight and feel better. I’m so happy they offer these classes, which are free. I don’t think I could pay for them otherwise."

The program, which is included as a key feature of EmblemHealth’s individual and family plans on the NY State of Health for 2015, is a conduit to encourage participants to engage in managing their health care. Participants pick up their Health Bucks at EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care locations where they connected to disease management programs and other services that addressed their specific health needs. For Ms. Butisingh, the staff at EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care helped make her experience with the program a positive one.  

"From the time you enter the building, you are treated so well by the staff. They go out of their way to make you feel welcomed," she said. "The instructors are so caring; they want to know how you are doing."

"This program aligns with our vision of transforming the way we care for our members, and thinking beyond traditional medical care," says Dr. William A. Gillespie, EmblemHealth SVP and Chief Medical Officer. "Many of our members who are new to health insurance and enrolled through the NY State of Health receive some form of financial assistance for their health care, but are not eligible for food stamps. This program helps them purchase fruits and vegetables and connects them to other health and wellness activities that EmblemHealth offers at no charge."

"We applaud EmblemHealth for helping New Yorkers lead healthier lives. Fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet but very few New Yorkers consume the recommended amount. Through the innovative Local Fruit and Veggies Program, EmblemHealth is helping make high quality locally grown produce more accessible for its exchange plan members through distributing Health Bucks," said Sonia Y. Angell, MD, MPH, DTM&H, FACP, Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Prevention and Primary Care at the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.  

The program is one of several initiatives that EmblemHealth offers to connect New Yorkers to local resources to develop a healthier lifestyle. These include:

  • Official Sponsorship of the Small Steps campaign and mobile app, a citywide initiative to provide access to fitness, health and nutrition classes and other local resources to help New Yorkers take control and manage their health.
  • Sponsorship of four farmers market operators across the city, including Harvest Home and Grow NYC.
  • The Live Healthy program, in which EmblemHealth partners with community-based organizations in five New York City neighborhoods, providing free cooking demonstrations, health education and exercise classes.

For more information about the Local Fruit and Veggies Program that EmblemHealth is making available, contact Carlye Burd at 646-447-7054.

About EmblemHealth
EmblemHealth, Inc., through its companies Group Health Incorporated (GHI) and HIP Health Plan of New York (HIP), provides quality health care coverage and administrative services to approximately 3.4 million people. Groups and individuals can choose from a variety of PPO, EPO and HMO plans, as well as coverage for prescription drugs and dental and vision care. EmblemHealth offers a choice of networks, including quality doctors and other health care professionals throughout the region, leading acute care hospitals across the tristate area, and physicians and hospitals across all 50 states. For more information, visit emblemhealth.com.

Harris Brandt