Aetna app may pay for Apple Watch
Exchange points to defray cost of timepiece
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 AttainbyAetna.com.
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.