There's no question is my mind that most health insurance plans will soon offer some sort of a wellness program with a rebate to insurance holders for healthy behavior, most notably exercise. A recent article provided details about UnitedHealthcare's mHealth program (see: UnitedHealthcare Announces a Huge Expansion of its mHealth Program). Below is an excerpt from it:
An mHealth program launched by one of the nation’s largest insurers that pays employees for meeting activity goals is getting a huge upgrade. UnitedHealthcare announced...that it is expanding its Motion wellness program to 40 states and opening up the digital health platform to accept more activity trackers – including the Fitbit Charge 2 - through a “bring your own device” model.....Running on Qualcomm Life’s 2net hub, UnitedHealthcare Motion enables businesses to track employees’ step counts throughout the day as they work toward three separate goals, known as F.I.T. goals. F.I.T. stands for frequency (six five-minute sessions per day, at least one hour apart, of at least 500 steps), intensity (3,000 steps within 30 minutes) and tenacity (10,000 total steps in a day). Employees taking part in the program can earn up to $4 a day in deductible costs if they meet those goals, or as much as $1,460 in a year....The growth of UnitedHealthcare Motion showcases the value of providing companies and their employees with personalized, connected health and wellness resources....Wearable technology can help encourage employees to walk each day and earn financial rewards at the same time, using secure technology that we believe is intuitive and convenient....UHC tacked on a $40 registration credit, giving employees that extra little momentum and bringing the total savings up to $1,500. The second point ties into the popularity of....[T]he activity tracker market [is very popular] – more than 13 million wearable fitness and activity trackers are expected to be incorporated into employee wellness program by 2018....
Plans like mHealth provide an opportunity for consumers to push back on the rising cost of health insurance, particularly high deductible plans (see: High Deductible Health Insurance Plans; Discount on Initial Services?; High Deductible Health Insurance Plans Becoming the Norm in Large Companies; High Deductible-Health Plans Causing Hospital Billing Problems). Of course, the rebates now being offered with wellness plans mean that the cost for the insurance is less because the policy holder is getting healthier and using fewer services.
I have come to the conclusion regarding wellness programs that, first, the most effective way to convince consumers to lead healthier lives is to pay them in some way to do so. The rebates of mHealth accomplish this goal. My second conclusion is that, for most people, the best way to achieve fitness is through a walking program (see: Walking: Your steps to health). mHealth achieves both of these goals with rebates and with the use of the Fitbit wearable, which allows logging of the distance walked by the policy holder to qualify for the rebate.
The Fitbit Charge 2 costs at least $150 on the web so it's understandable that the mHealth program requires those who enroll in mHealth to BYOD -- bring your own device. As the cost of these wearables and the value of the program increases, I can see a future where the insurance company lends or gives the consumer the device but this may take a while to occur. This wellness program is analogous to automobile insurance discounts in exchange for monitoring driving habits (see: Auto insurance discounts and monitoring). The companies need some sort of foolproof record of events in order to offer the discount.
One feature available on the Fitbit Force 2 that caught my attention was guided breathing (see: Fitbit’s New Guided Breathing Experience). This is a good example of how some forms of alternative medicine such as yoga and meditation are now achieving mainstream status. Breathing exercises have been shown to lower blood pressure (see: How to Use Breathing Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure).