What it is: The Apple Watch is a wearable computer that offers real-time health monitoring and tracking.
Beginning this fall, Aetna, one of the U.S.A.’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, will make the Apple Watch available to select large employers and individual customers during open enrollment season. Aetna will also be the first major health care company to subsidize a significant portion of the Apple Watch cost, offering monthly payroll deductions to make covering the remaining cost easier.
In addition to the customer program, Aetna will provide Apple Watch at no cost to its own nearly 50,000 employees, who will participate in the company’s wellness reimbursement program, to encourage them to live more productive, healthy lives.
As an insurance company, Aetna realizes that people who lead healthy lifestyles are likely to be at lower risk for health problems. Thus by using tools such as the Apple Watch to keep people healthier, Aetna can avoid paying out much larger health care costs in the future. Like all insurance companies, Aetna is simply relying on statistics.
Statistically, smokers are more at risk to dying earlier and suffering health problems sooner. That makes smokers riskier customers than someone who doesn’t smoke at all, exercises regularly, and eats a healthy diet. Ultimately, this is just another way to lower costs for Aetna and maximize profits. The big difference is that Aetna is using the Apple Watch’s real-time health monitoring features to do it.
If the average Apple Watch owner stays healthier due to real-time monitoring, then Apple Watch owners will be lower insurance risks (which increases profits). Other insurance companies are likely to follow, which leads to a curious dilemma. If you agree to real-time health monitoring through wearable computers like the Apple Watch, you’ll be rewarded with subsidies to offset the cost of the Apple Watch. If you don’t agree to real-time health monitoring, then the insurance company will likely charge you higher health and life insurance premiums.
So wearable computers can lower your premiums, provided you live a healthier lifestyle. By voluntarily wearing the Apple Watch, you can provide the insurance company with data to prove you’re healthy and thus a lower risk, which means lower insurance premiums. What happens if your lifestyle drastically changes and your health gets worse? Then the insurance company will likely raise your premiums to adjust for your greater risk.
Real-time health monitoring is the future of wearable computers. Aetna knows this and other insurance companies will likely follow their lead. Getting a free or subsidized Apple Watch is one incentive to using one, but the big question is whether people will willingly hand over real-time health data to insurance companies to verify their health and lower premiums.
So the Apple Watch is helping lead the way to wearable computers and real-time health monitoring. Only time will tell whether this will improve people’s health or simply improve the insurance company’s profits. In either case, the Apple Watch is a revolutionary product that many people still haven’t recognized yet.