Can I get a better health insurance rate if I use a fitness tracker?

Q:

Can I get a better health insurance rate if I use a fitness tracker?

A:

Talk about wearable technology changing the health insurance industry has been buzing for a long time. The discussion has really taken off in recent years as fitness tracking technology has advanced (see this infographic on 6 InsureTech Trends to Know for a picture of where insurance is heading).

The health insurance industry sets rates based on their estimation of risk. Currently, they do this using whatever data they have available: mandatory medical exams and statistics based on age, gender, lifestyle, and habits. Modern wearable technology like fitness trackers can track everything from your daily step count to your breathing and heart rates. This give insurance companies a trove of data they can mine to estimate risk more accurately, which means potentially lower rates for healthier applicants but also higher rates for less healthy or less active ones (find out How to Lower Your Health Insurance Rates).

What place fitness trackers and other wearable sensors will occupy in the future of health insurance remains to be seen. In the meantime, many health insurance providers are experimenting with different ways to make use of them.

The health insurer United Healthcare has something called the Motion Program where policyholders track their physical activity using Fitbits and can earn credits on their health insurance policies by meeting certain activity goals. Similarly, Canadian insurer Manulife has a program that awards points for physical exercise and other healthy activities like getting an annual checkup or getting a flu shot. Program members can spend these points to get discounts at retailers or on their health insurance policies.

So, yes, if your insurer has incentive programs that use fitness trackers, wearing one (and being sufficiently active) could secure you some discounts on your policy.

As these sensors begin collecting more information and more sophisticated data, however, concerns with privacy and controversy about how the data is used and accessed are growing. For example, it's not clear yet whether regulators will allow insurers to deny claims based on fitness data.

It would also not be surprising to one day see health insurance rates set on a daily basis. By drawing on real-time readings from fitness trackers and other biometric monitors, insurance rates could fluctuate to keep up with policyholders' healthy habits or lapses.

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Written by Jacques Wong
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Jacques grew up around the insurance industry and began actively participating in 2013. Since then, he has gotten a Level 2 license, won an Insurance Council of BC award in 2015 for academic excellence in the insurance licensing courses and educates insurance professionals through PNC Learning.   Full Bio