Within the control plans that did not offer gym memberships, differences between the 1,154 new enrollees and the 3,910 earlier enrollees were only 1.5 percentage points or less for each measure. The adjusted differences between the fitness benefit plans and the control plans were 4.7 percentage points higher for general health, 9.2 percentage points lower for activity limitations, and 7.4 percentage points lower for difficulty walking.
"If you look at the proportion of plans that offered coverage with fitness memberships from 2002 through 2008, there was a fourfold rise from 14 of the plans that had continuous participation in the Medicare over that time period to 58," says Trivedi, a general internist with the Department of Health Services, Policy, and Practice, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and a researcher with Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Providence, RI.
"If you extrapolate that trend it's probably more likely that even more plans offer coverage with fitness memberships in 2012," Trivedi says. "We were very struck by the tremendous growth in the number of plans that offer gym membership. That suggests to us that this is probably an attractive business proposition for health plans."