Health Insurance Plans Push Healthy Food Discounts

I was sitting at the kitchen counter this morning, enjoying my breakfast of cranberry pomegranate juice and a blueberry Pop Tart (no judging – I don’t have these everyday), innocently reading the Star Tribune when this headline caught my eye:

Insurance plans push healthier choices at grocery store

Interesting, I thought, and set about reading the article. 

However, the first three paragraphs stopped me in my tracks:

“Sandy Brezinski savored the savings last week when her preferred brand of organic tortilla chips went on sale.

Not only did her grocery store discount the item to $2.99, a program offered through her employer’s health insurance knocked another $2 off the price.

“You get that for 99 cents,” Brezinski said. “How good is that?”

Are you catching my drift here?

Organic tortilla chips

This woman got a “healthier eating discount” from her health insurance company because she bought tortilla chips.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but while we all love a good tortilla chip, I don’t think eating tortilla chips are going to make any of us any healthier or prolong our lives in any meaningful way. 

Organic or not, they are still chips.

If the article had led with a grocery shopper taking advantage of a discount on fresh fruits and vegetables or lean sources of protein, I would have been more likely to see the benefit. But chips? C’mon.

I also find it a little disturbing that a health insurance company could possibly be touting certain brands or methods of production (organic vs. non-organic, for example) as somehow “healthier”. I’d like to know how they choose their items. And what parameters they consider for healthy food.

The article quotes a consumer who’s insurance plan from Medica is trying out these so-called healthy food incentives: “A lot of the coupons, when I looked them up, it was the more expensive products to begin with — so it would be name-brand or organic or something like that.”

As I’ve noted before in previous blog posts about food choices, I don’t have an issue with organic products — and in fact, I do buy organic sometimes because I like the taste of certain products. I don’t kid myself that they are any “healthier” for me, though. And I sure don’t think it’s always necessary to have to buy more expensive food products to be healthier if you can’t afford it. (See also my blog post on egg nutrition – otherwise known as “an egg is an egg is an egg.”)

Bottom line – I think that most of us can admit that we could do better, for example, to eat more fruits and veggies in our diet and to take a step or two back from the junk food (like tortilla chips and, okay, Pop Tarts) … everything in moderation, right?

I would’ve taken this article a bit more seriously if the consumer featured would’ve been saving money on a pint of blueberries or some Greek yogurt. Instead I worry that health insurance plans are doling out discounts on junk food disguised as healthy food. 

And that message just further confuses all the food labels we have out there already.

4 comments on “Health Insurance Plans & Healthy Food Discounts”

  1. This is crazy! Why am I not surprised, though. (That is what worries me more.)
    On a lighter note: Terry would like you know if you have tried the Jolly Rancher PopTarts. It’s probably his most favorite “food”, except of course turkey. Unfortunately, not near as healthy or low cal.

    • Yeah, right? It’s really not that surprising at all. 🙁

      You’ll have to tell Terry I have NOT tried Jolly Rancher Pop Tarts – LOL! I tend to stick to classics like blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry. But perhaps I need to give the Jolly Rancher flavor a shot?!


    • Thanks, Val! And I have to agree … it definitely made me think a bit about what’s happening with those health programs that might be shaping opinions, etc.

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