COLUMBIA -- An alert taxpayer says he doesn't know why the government would give him $10 to take his grandson to the doctor, and he wants some answers.

Reece Flynt received a $10 gift card to Wal-Mart from a Medicaid managed care company after he took his 10-year-old grandson to the doctor for a check-up when the child wasn't sick. Flynt and his wife have custody of their grandson after the child's father was killed.

His first thought when he saw the incentive?

"For crying out loud, I get a free doctor and free medical insurance and now they want to pay me $10 to get off my butt and take him to the doctor?" Flynt said.

He said it's frustrating that any parent or guardian would need a $10 incentive to take a child to the doctor.

Jeff Stensland, director of communications for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said Medicaid clients can choose between a number of managed care companies that contract with the agency to administer the insurance coverage. Stensland said clients also can select the Medical Homes Network to manage their insurance coverage.

The Flynts chose the First Choice plan at Select Health of South Carolina for their grandson.

Select Health, like the other managed care companies, sees the incentives as a way to encourage Medicaid clients to make healthy decisions -- and in the long term save the state money, said Kathy Stone, the company's vice president for public affairs. The $10 gift card is a perk that parents and guardians receive when they take children to regular wellness visits, rather than waiting until the child is sick and taking him or her to the emergency room.

Incentives offered by Select Health and the other companies include discounts to join weight-loss programs, memberships to Boys and Girls Clubs of America, free glucose monitors and breast pumps, for example.

Whether the companies chose to offer the incentives or not does not change the rate the state's Medicaid agency pays them to provide coverage, Stensland said. The companies provide the incentives based on their internal decisions, he said.

Stensland said the Wal-Mart gift card that Flynts will receive in the mail in the coming weeks is not a present from the government.

"It is the individual plan that has made a business decision," Stensland said.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855 or ywenger@postandcourier.com.