Aetna app may pay for Ap­ple Watch

Ex­change points to de­fray cost of time­piece

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY | TECH - Ed­ward C. Baig USA TO­DAY

Aetna and Ap­ple are part­ner­ing on a fresh per­son­al­ized well-be­ing pro­gram and app for the Ap­ple Watch that of­fers par­tic­i­pants re­wards that can help de­fray the cost of Ap­ple’s high-tech time­piece. In other words, us­ing the app could pay for your Ap­ple Watch.

The At­tain by Aetna pro­gram, as it is called, dif­fers from a 2016 col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Ap­ple and the CVS Healthowne­d in­surer, in that it will be made avail­able to Aetna mem­bers di­rectly, and not through a cor­po­rate-spon­sored health ben­e­fit for em­ploy­ees of a given com­pany.

For now, Aetna is lim­it­ing en­roll­ment in the pro­gram to the first 250,000 to 300,000 mem­bers who sign up, which you can do at At­tain­

The pro­gram, which launches in the spring, is built around cus­tom­ized ac­tiv­ity goals that are based on your gen­der, age and weight, your choice of how to burn off calo­ries. This could be the num­ber of steps you take, the laps you swim, or ex­er­cises in­volv­ing yoga.

Weekly chal­lenges will be is­sued through the app around nu­tri­tion, mind­ful­ness or sleep goals, though the Ap­ple Watch doesn’t have na­tive sleep­track­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

One ex­am­ple of a sim­ple chal­lenge: “Take three brisk 10-minute walks any­time be­fore Satur­day,” which, to get credit, you track through the Work­out app on the Watch.

The points you earn through such chal­lenges can be used to pay for your Ap­ple Watch over a 24-month pe­riod, at least up to the $279 start­ing price for a Se­ries 3 model. If you al­ready own an Ap­ple Watch – and the At­tain app is com­pat­i­ble with all the mod­els dat­ing back to Se­ries 1 – you can re­deem points for gift cards from Ama­zon, Best Buy, CVS, iTunes, Nike, Star­bucks and Whole Foods. You can also do­nate your points to char­i­ties.

The health “ac­tions” rec­om­mended through At­tain meet clin­i­cal guide­lines, the com­pa­nies say, and are based on an Aetna mem­ber’s health his­tory and sen­sor data col­lected off the Ap­ple Watch.

You’re also promised timely no­ti­fi­ca­tions: to fill pre­scrip­tions be­fore they run out, for ex­am­ple, to get a flu shot if there’s an out­break in an area, or to visit a pri­mary care physi­cian if it has been awhile. You may even be no­ti­fied of lower-cost op­tions for sched­uled lab tests or MRI scans.

Now, the in­evitable ques­tion: What about pri­vacy? First off, the pro­gram is com­pletely vol­un­tary – you can opt in or out. All At­tain and Watch data are en­crypted on the de­vice it­self, while it is in tran­sit, or when it lands on Ap­ple's and/ or Aetna’s se­cure servers.

What’s more, and this is cru­cial, Aetna says it will not use in­for­ma­tion from the pro­gram to make un­der­writ­ing, premium or cov­er­age de­ci­sions.

Alan Lotvin, an M.D., who is the head of trans­for­ma­tion for CVS Health, said in a state­ment that, “We un­der­stand that you don’t need to be a per­sonal trainer or work out sev­eral hours a day to be health­ier. We’re de­sign­ing At­tain to be per­son­al­ized and clin­i­cally rel­e­vant to where each in­di­vid­ual is in their health jour­ney. This is an am­bi­tious chal­lenge, and we will adapt and im­prove over time to cre­ate the best ex­pe­ri­ence for our mem­bers.”

In his own state­ment, Ap­ple’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Jeff Wil­liams said that, “We be­lieve that peo­ple should be able to play a more ac­tive role in man­ag­ing their well-be­ing. Ev­ery day, we re­ceive emails and let­ters from peo­ple all over the world who have found great ben­e­fit by in­cor­po­rat­ing Ap­ple Watch into their lives and daily rou­tines. As we learn over time, the goal is to make more cus­tom­ized rec­om­men­da­tions that will help mem­bers ac­com­plish their goals and live health­ier lives.”

Along those lines, you can choose to share your At­tain pro­gram data and health his­tory with Ap­ple, which will then use an­a­lyt­ics and ma­chine learn­ing to per­son­al­ize rec­om­men­da­tions even fur­ther.

The At­tain re­wards plat­form is mod­eled off a well­ness pro­gram de­vel­oped by Vi­tal­ity Group, that has demon­strated that in­cen­tives linked to the Ap­ple Watch are as­so­ci­ated with in­creased, sus­tained ac­tiv­ity. Ap­ple and Aetna point to a re­cent study by Rand that found that ac­tiv­ity lev­els for par­tic­i­pants us­ing such a re­wards plat­form rose by an av­er­age 34 per­cent, com­pared to those with­out these in­cen­tives – lead­ing to an ad­di­tional 4.8 days of ac­tiv­ity per month.

Ap­ple and, for that mat­ter, mak­ers of other wear­ables have worked with in­sur­ance com­pa­nies be­fore to of­fer fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives around fit­ness ac­tiv­i­ties on these de­vices. Ap­ple Watch wear­ers who are part of the United Health­care Mo­tion em­ployee ben­e­fit pro­gram can earn up to $1,000 a year by meet­ing cer­tain walk­ing goals. United Health­care also has ties with Fit­bit and Garmin de­vices.

John Han­cock will let you get an Ap­ple Watch for as lit­tle as $25, if you sign up for life in­sur­ance and meet cer­tain ex­er­cise re­quire­ments. John Han­cock also part­nered with Vi­tal­ity Group.

For its part, Aetna says that, through its own 2016 col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ap­ple, 90 per­cent of par­tic­i­pants re­ported a health ben­e­fit from their use of Ap­ple Watch.

Over the past few years, Ap­ple has been push­ing hard into the health field. Most re­cently, Ap­ple teamed up with John­son & John­son on a study to de­ter­mine whether the lat­est Ap­ple Watch, in con­junc­tion with an app from the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany, can ac­cel­er­ate the di­ag­no­sis of a lead­ing cause of stroke.

In Novem­ber 2017, Ap­ple and the Stan­ford Univer­sity School of Medicine col­lab­o­rated on an­other study that uses the heart rate sen­sor in­side the Ap­ple Watch to col­lect data on ir­reg­u­lar heart rhythms – re­sults of that study are still pend­ing.


Aetna says it won’t use the Watch data for premium or cov­er­age de­ci­sions.


You can de­fray the cost of an Ap­ple Watch through the re­wards earned through Aetna’s At­tain pro­gram.

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