Panel Paper: How Do Changes in the Monthly Fee Subsidy and Minimum Visit Rules for Gyms Have an Impact on the Health Promotion Program Participants' Behavior?

Monday, April 10, 2017 : 11:05 AM
HUB 268 (University of California, Riverside)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sujeong Park, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Health promotion programs of employers and health insurers use subsidies for commercial gyms to encourage physical activity and reduce health risks. Membership subsidies and obligations to keep subsidies have an impact on program participants’ behaviors such as gym enrollment and withdrawal. To measure the impact size, this study demonstrates how participants respond to changes in monthly fee subsidies for gyms and changes in minimum visit requirements which serve as an incentive and an obligation to keep the incentive.

We use administrative data from the health promotion program, Vitality, run by the South African health insurance company, Discovery Health. In order to encourage physical activity, Vitality covers full monthly membership for participants who joined the gym before 2010 and 80% for participants who joined after January 2010. Additionally, people who visit gyms 24 times per year keep the benefit and minimum visit requirement increases to 36 per year for people who activate the gym membership after January 2012.

This study uses logistic regression of enrollment and duration models of gym enrollment and gym membership withdrawal. For the preliminary analysis, a 2% random sample of Vitality data (n=18,761) is used. Preliminary analysis of the data shows that around 56% of health promotion participants never activate their gym membership. Furthermore, it displays the average age of participants is 34 years old, with 41% female and 59% male. 

Preliminary results illustrate a substantial behavioral impact of the policy changes in gym benefit. Lower subsidies and higher minimum visits requirement are associated with lower enrollments. Also, among participants who activated gym membership at least once, having no monthly fee and a lower minimum visits requirement reduces the duration of time to membership activation significantly. Having no monthly fee and a lower minimum visit requirement reduces gym withdrawals significantly. Overall, the results of the analysis conclude that a strong incentive such as higher subsidies and a less strict obligation such as lower visit requirement increase enrollment and the duration of gym enrollment.