In major win for Apple, Aetna becomes first insurance company to subsidize Apple Watch

Aetna, one of the U.S.A.’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving an estimated 46.3 million people, today announced a new initiative to revolutionize members’ consumer health experience by combining the power of iOS apps and the unmatched user experience of Apple products including Apple Watch, iPhone and iPad with Aetna’s analytics-based wellness and care management programs. Beginning this fall, Aetna will make Apple Watch available to select large employers and individual customers during open enrollment season, and Aetna will 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.

With support from Apple, Aetna is planning several iOS-exclusive health initiatives, starting with deeply integrated health apps for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch that will significantly improve the ability of consumers to manage their health and increase healthy outcomes. The initial solutions under development are among the first health apps designed for multi-device use.

Apple Watch Series 2 with built-in GPS and water resistance to 50 meters
Apple Watch Series 2 with built-in GPS and water resistance to 50 meters

“We are incredibly excited to use iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to create simple, intuitive and personalized technology solutions that will transform the health and wellness experience for our members,” said Mark Bertolini, Aetna Chairman and CEO, in a statement. “This is only the beginning – we look forward to using these tools to improve health outcomes and help more people achieve more healthy days.”

“We are thrilled that Aetna will be helping their members and employees take greater control of their health using Apple Watch,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in a statement. “Aetna’s new initiatives will be a powerful force toward creating better customer experiences in health care, and we look forward to working with Aetna to make them successful.”

Aetna’s iOS-exclusive health apps will aim to simplify the healthcare process through a number of features, including:

• Care management and wellness, to help guide consumers through health events like a new diagnosis or prescription medication with user-driven support from nurses and people with similar conditions.

• Medication adherence, to help consumers remember to take their medications, easily order refills and connect with their doctor if they need a different treatment through their Apple Watch or iPhone.

• Integration with Apple Wallet, allowing consumers to check their deductible and pay a bill.

• Personalized health plan on-boarding, information, messaging and decision support to help Aetna members understand and make the most of their benefits.

Aetna’s solutions will be available in early 2017.

Source: Aetna

MacDailyNews Take:

As we wrote last September:

Those who want to sit around, munching chips, while encasing themselves in growing rolls of fat should pay more for the costs brought on by their heart attacks, gout, diabetes, strokes, asthma, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and cancer treatments.

Next we need a way for Apple Watch to detect smokers and charge them more, too. People who make the effort to be healthy, regardless of whether they actually are lucky enough to be healthy or not*, should pay less for their health insurance as they tax the system far less than those who are sedentary, obese and/or smoke. Just as life insurance costs more for those who live unhealthy lifestyles, their health insurance should cost more, too. (Life insurers should utilize Apple Watches in much the same way.)

*If a person is obese for reasons beyond a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle, who is actively trying to be healthy as shown by their Apple Watch, but other conditions prevent fat loss (Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, hormonal imbalances, Syndrome X, medications, etc.) they should get a lower rate than those who are simply leading sedentary, unhealthy lifestyles. Most cases of obesity are due to sedentary lifestyles and consuming more calories than required, not medical conditions.

Furthermore, people should have every right to sit around eating chips and smoking until they drop dead (unfortunately, it’s rarely that clean; they often first tax the health system to a great degree by developing diabetes, cancers, banging off a couple of heart attacks, having a stroke here and there, etc. before they finally make their exit) and insurance companies should have every right to charge them more since, overall, they cost far more to take care of due to their poor choice(s) which raises costs for those who are trying to take care of themselves and therefore cost the system far less.

If you’re fat because you sit around too much and take in more calories than you can possible burn off by sitting on your ass all day, don’t be offended. Either keep on as you’re doing and pay more to cover your increased costs or put down the chips, stand up and get moving! (You can thank us later by continuing to visit during the 10-20 extra years you’ll get by following our latter advice.)

New ‘SweatCoin’ iPhone app pays people to get fit – May 5, 2016
Why you’ll wear an Apple Watch to keep your job – March 14, 2016
Share your fitness data for an Apple Watch – or cash – March 2, 2016
Tim Cook hints Apple might build a health device – November 10, 2015
Apple should double down on Apple Watch’s health sensors, battery life, and waterproofing – October 2, 2015
Health insurer will charge more for lazy people, less for active people, based on Apple Watch sensors – September 18, 2015


      1. Unfortunately I think you are right. Healthcare is now connected big government mandates and IRS oversight. Little by little people will find what they eat, and what they do in free time regulated by health-based directives. Comply or be penalized. I applaud Aetna’s move in and of itself as step in making health care record keeping more efficient and hopefully less costly, but it is a piece of an overall degradation of liberty because the records of one’s lifestyle are gradually becoming part of a public record and open to regulation.

      2. Bingo. The insurance industry is a business that cares about profits and margins…not your health.

        If anyone is serious about their health, start first with cutting processed sugar (and carbs to a very large degree) out of your diet as much as possible. It is literally in everything you buy and is poisoning us as a society. Diet is about 70% and the other 30% is having some sort of active lifestyle, even walking 20 minutes a day. Said another way, you are never going to simply exercise your way to good health if you eat the typical crap processed food that is pushed on us literally everywhere.

        1. Insurance is essentially a bet against yourself. You bet something bad will happen to you (i.e. you’ll get sick) and the insurance company bets that it won’t and gives you odds (your premiums are a fraction of what the cost of treatment would be). This is a way for the insurance companies to wiggle out of the deal. They’ll never do anything to stop the flow of premiums, but will deny payment if you make a claim and your monitor (that’s what it will be) suggests you didn’t fully adhere to the rules.

          To quote Admiral Ackbar “It’s a trap!”

  1. Boom! means the Apple Watch floodgates are about to open…wide. Asinine commenters have dismissed the wearable as definitely not the next big thing. Oh, how (obviously) wrong they are. In addition to selling more companion IPhones, I predict a hearty increase in recurring revenue from third party services.

  2. The news media will manage to turn this AppleWatch subsidy program into a bad thing for Apple and the insured. They’ll swear the money can be spent in much better ways other than supporting some big, rich tech giant to sell more and more hardware. Most any program that supports the funding for Apple hardware is always seen as being fraudulent because they could have gotten some Android hardware for one-third the price or something to that effect.

    I don’t expect this program to be seen as a win for Apple. You just wait for the flood of negative articles to hit the internet. “Failed AppleWatch product to be given to insurers to waste more health insurance money.”

    1. The main difference is that insurance companies aren’t government, so they aren’t spending taxpayer’s money. What they do with their own money is nobody’s business but theirs and their shareholders’. They are investing their own profits, betting that the investment will eventually pay off by motivating customers to lead healthier lifestyle, which would significantly reduce claim payouts, thereby increasing profits. It is a very simple and logical business move.

      As public companies, insurance companies aren’t responsible to the tax payers; they are responsible only to their shareholders.

      1. I’m curious how many non-Aetna companies will go for this. Aetna will subsidize part of the cost (which is actually paid by the insured via premiums and may be raised at the discretion of Aetna in the future) and the remainder is up to I’m assuming the insured individual that will either pay out of pocket or gradually via payroll deduction.

        2 possible barriers I see to the success of this initiative is that the insured already have or is intending to get an iPhone to support the Apple Watch since it is still is not a standalone device and if the non-subsidized remainder is paid by the employer or the employee.

  3. I think it is great that insurance companies are going to subsidize the Apple Watch to promote healthier lifestyles. Now if they would now cover hearing aides, for us who need them, at the same level of subsidy that would be real progress!

    1. I think the difference between Apple Watch and hearing aid is that when a person gets an Apple Watch, research shows that most of them noticeably modify their lifestyle, spending more time on physical activity, which has positive effect on their overall health, which reduces their medical claims, improving profit margins for the insurers.

      When a person gets hearing aid, it improves their quality of life, but doesn’t affect their overall health condition. The insurance company has no compelling business reason to significantly subsidise hearing aid (or any other quality-of-life device).

      1. Hearing aids could be argued to improve not just quality of life but also overall health condition if you consider that stress from not hearing properly and miscommunication occurring is greatly reduced. For children, it may be the keystone to better education which leads to better health.

  4. Interesting thoughts, MDN, but apparently based on a false premise. It turns out that people with obesity and smokers actually cost _less_ overall because they tend to die sooner.

    Now, we obviously may want to encourage people to avoid smoking and help them lose weight because it is morally good, but they don’t actually drain the healthcare system of money the way you assume.

    1. Krioni, you mean to say that Aerna is stupid to pay for part of the Apple Watch cost for earning less profit? You mean to say that Aetna is pushing Apple Watch without any financial benefit to them? Do they not have a huge research budget to understand which kind of people cost more? Are they unaware as to what factors affect their profits?

      1. Nope. Didn’t mean to say that. Also, I didn’t say that. I think reading what I said would be helpful in deciphering its meaning. I think Aetna’s plan is a good idea.

        I was mildly criticizing MDN’s Take where they say that pay who are overweight or who smoke should pay more in health insurance since they cost more. There is some evidence the opposite is true. I also think that healthcare is a public good, and society as a whole benefits from people being healthy.

        I think getting an Apple Watch can help people in many situations be more healthy. I’m not sure how you misread my comment into a criticism of what Aetna is doing.

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