Anthem's tip for better health: Try this ice cream

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And since being healthy apparently means smelling healthy, Anthem is offering members a coupon for 50 cents off any Ban antiperspirant or deodorant.

Kristin Binns, an Anthem spokeswoman, said the coupons are from a marketing company called Linkwell Health, which has partnered with the insurance giant to encourage more healthful eating choices.

The idea, she said, is that many people will buy ice cream or mayonnaise anyway, so why not steer them toward products with lower calories or sodium counts?

"The mailed coupons are an engaging way to provide members with information to help them live healthier and make gradual changes by pointing them to healthier food alternatives … and other items that contribute to a healthy lifestyle," Binns said.

She said a first round of letters was sent recently to about 180,000 Anthem members "identified with, or at risk of, diabetes or heart health conditions." A second round was sent to an additional 190,000 people that the insurer sees as desiring more info on healthful living.

Binns said Anthem receives no money from coupon providers and leaves all such deal making to Linkwell. But the campaign is being offered under Anthem's imprimatur, with letters to members signed by the senior medical director for Anthem Blue Cross of California.

As for why coupons are being sent for deodorant along with foods, Binns said dry, fresh-scented underarms "fit into the scope of healthy living and well-being."

OK, I get it. Anthem wants people to eat (and smell) better. Rival insurer Humana has a similar program for 5% discounts on healthful food purchases at Wal-Mart.

But it seems like a halfhearted effort to encourage consumption of foods that are only modestly more nutritional than the junk that many people like to eat.

If you're going to promote wellness, why not go all-in? Provide incentives to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, or fresh meat and fish.

Better still, don't even fool around with coupons. Offer subsidies for gym memberships. And reduce premiums for people who don't smoke or drink or who meet benchmarks for weight and fitness.

Helping people buy ice cream? Not exactly a recipe for success.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send tips or feedback to

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