So for the January 1st edition, the New York Times asked six leading macro economist what we should be doing the solve our problems. Not one of them presented a real, straight ahead program. A couple nibble around the edges of a program that would make sense.
However, the sixth economist raised being truly stupid to an entirely new level. This guy is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. And here is the scary part. He is an adviser to the Cowardly Lion. Now you know why we are in such deep trouble. Read on.
The Answer Starts
With a Salad Bar
RICHARD H. THALER A professor of economics and behavioral science at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.
IN case you’ve forgotten, we have a crisis in health care spending. But employers can help us deal with it — and save themselves some money — with a few nudges.
The thesis of “Nudge,” which Cass R. Sunstein and I wrote in 2008, is that “choice architects” can often help people achieve their goals simply by making the necessary steps easier. As choice architects, employers can do a lot to improve their workers’ health. That, in turn, can lead to more productive workers who have fewer sick days and cost less to insure.
Where to start? First, make it easier to eat well while at work. That doesn’t mean limiting the cafeteria menu to tofu and cauliflower. It means offering various healthful, tasty options that are featured prominently. Put an attractive salad bar including some healthy proteins before the burger line, for instance, and subsidize the healthy food.
Second, make it easier to get some exercise during the workday. Walking just 30 minutes a day provides noticeable health benefits. Some ambitious companies have installed treadmills with workstations, but there are lower-cost solutions. Even a small to midsize business can probably arrange a discount at a health club.
You don’t have to leave work to get some exercise. A good place to start is on the stairs. Walking a few flights several times a day is a good start on that 30 minutes. To entice workers, companies should make their stairwells attractive and fun. Add music, murals or graffiti contests. Or try lotteries with a chance to win any time you walk up or down one flight. Finally, better align health insurance incentives with behavior. One of the biggest health care problems is that patients don’t keep up with their medications, even those that might save their lives. Why charge people who’ve had heart attacks a co-payment when they fill prescriptions that reduce the chance of another attack? Instead, make those prescriptions free and use technology to remind them to take their medicine, either with a text message or a pillbox that starts beeping if you forget to take your pills.
And here’s a practice we should use more often: Offer insurance discounts to reward healthy behavior. Saving $500 on a premium is a good incentive to quit smoking or lose some weight.
My New Year’s resolution is to take at least two walking meetings a week. How about you?