Companies who manufacture and market devices like the Fitbit or Jawbone Up are gearing themselves to play a big role in how individual and group health insurance premiums are decided. This could therefore mean that health insurance premiums could change daily and furthermore not annually, as is the current trend. Wellness could mean lower life insurance premiums.
One in every ten American adults owns a fitness tracker and it is expected that fitness devices will become more widespread over the next decade. Other programs similar to this are available in other parts of the world. People who get up in the morning and jog for miles will get rebates. Individuals who are couch potatoes and can barely make it to the kitchen to fetch a soda will be paying more.
When it all comes to the push, people with higher incomes are hence going to find that they are fitter. They therefore benefit from higher rebates as they are more likely to be in a favourable position to purchase better quality wellness devices. These devices monitor steps, breathing rate, apps that can sense the onset of chronic illnesses or stress.
In addition, some companies are even considering punishment for non wellness behaviour being recorded by a wearable. Fitness wearables would go beyond giving doctors deeper access to your data.
These tracking gadgets play a major role in car insurance for some Americans. Progressive offers drivers a small device that they plug into their dashboards. The company can monitor driving habits over a 30 day period. Safe drivers are then eligible for a discount.
Insurers could do the same with health care as the $2.6 trillion health care bill is driven by behaviours and bad decisions. Obesity and diabetes could result in increased insurance premiums. Data points such as BMI (body mass index) are already used by insurers to detect the level of wellness.
Microsoft is working on a smart watch that will measure continuous heart rate over days and weeks. Temperature and blood-glucose monitoring is on the table for wearables as well. Last year Apple lured data scientists from the now defunct company C8 MediSensors. They had regulatory approval for a non-invasive optical glucose monitor. That raised suspicions that Apple wanted to put a glucose monitor in its forthcoming iWatch.
One large insurer, Cigna, launched a program where it distributed armbands made by bodymedia to thousands of the employees at one of its corporate customers. Early results showed that a number of employees were on the verge of developing diabetes. These employees hence made lifestyle changes and improved their risk profiles.
Autodesk bought fitbit trackers and sold them to their employees at a discount. BP with 14, 000 employees chose to wear a free Fitbit Zip. In exchange they thus let the company track their wellness. Furthermore, if they crossed one million steps, they gained points that could go towards lower insurance premiums.
Wyoming Medicaid launched a smartphone app for pregnant women in partnership with mobile wellness engagement platform developer Wildflower Health. Wildflower is an app for pregnant women that measures data such as weight gain and other pregnancy milestones. This app helps women keep track of their pregnancy.
It has reminders, weekly ultrasound videos that show how the baby is supposed to look at each stage of the pregnancy. Furthermore it give daily advice. If women have a more immediate question, the app is connected to a free 24-7 nurse line, so they can talk to Wy Health staff. A lite version exists for any woman to use this app, but this version does not have a nurse hotline.
A brief overview of wearable technology:
Pebble Steel: Equal parts fashionable as well as functionable, the Pebble Steel leaps to the top of the smart watch heap, but does so by improving existing tech rather than adding something totally new. ‘
Price: $184.28 – $229.99
Jawbone Up 24: If having a screen is not a priority, the Jawbone Up24’s superb app, clever advice and comfy fit are hard to resist.
Price: $55.99 – $149.99
Garmin Forerunner 15:
Its lack of Bluetooth notwithstanding, the affordable Garmin Forerunner 15 is otherwise a great health tracking wristwatch for runners.
Price: $163.99 – $170.00
Fitbit Charge HR:
Fitbit Charge HR adds heart rate tracking to an already solid fitness band at a great price, but all the kinks however do not feel fully ironed out yet.
Price: $149.95 – $149.99
Samsung Gear VR:
The Gear VR Innovation Edition is a cool and very promising entry ticket for early wellness adopters looking for an affordable taste of virtual reality.
New apps and software give the original Pebble a welcome boost.
The Misfit Flash is a versatile, easy-to-use and extremely affordable fitness tracker that can be worn swimming, too, and it even kind of works as a watch.
Price: $32.99 – $49.99
LG G Water R:
Although its stark design and beautiful face makes this the first smart watch you might actually be happy to be seen wearing, its Android Wear Software has a long way to go before its anything more than a passing novelty.
Price: $299.99 – $314.99
Samsung Gear 2 Neo:
The Gear 2 Neo offers the best balance of features and price among Samsung’s three 2014 smart watches, but it falls short of must-have status.
Price: $168.99 – $199.99