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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Give Private Info to Health Insurers to Save Money?

But experts question whether people responding to Harris/HealthDay poll understand broader impact

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Blumenthal-Barby agreed on the need for a cautious deployment of financial incentives. "We need to make sure that incentives do not become coercive," she said.

Taylor pointed out that "all such monitoring and testing would have to be, and be seen to be, strictly voluntary. Any suggestion that pressure was being put on people to participate would be disastrous."

According to Blumenthal-Barby, one of the striking findings from the poll was that while 49 percent of people were "very willing" to undergo genetic tests, only 28 percent would attend a health class or keep an online diet-and-exercise diary.

"People would rather have genetic tests than keep a diary," she said.

That could be because a blood test sounds much easier, or because people often believe they are unlikely to have any "bad" genes, Blumenthal-Barby noted. But again, she said, the results suggest that many people do not grasp the full implications of giving away genetic information.

The poll, which surveyed 2,033 Americans online between Oct. 21-23, asked about hypothetical situations -- what people "would" do if a health plan were to offer incentives for various tests.

Blumenthal-Barby said she wasn't aware of any employers or insurers currently offering incentives in exchange for genetic tests -- which, in addition to being intrusive, are costly.

But she said that when people do get real offers of financial reward in exchange for medical tests, they should make sure they understand the deal.

"I don't think incentives are 'bad,'" Blumenthal-Barby said. "If the aim is to help you be healthier and cut down on overall health care costs, they could be good."

But, she added, "people may just think about the money. They need to be a little cautious and read the fine print, too."

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