Aetna is working on writing apps that can be used on iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches to encourage customers to take their medications, seek support groups for their diagnoses, or pay their premiums with Apple Wallet.
The apps will be available in early 2017.
In preparation, Aetna announced Tuesday that it will offer subsidized Apple Watches to employees and large-employer clients that want to integrate them into wellness programs. Those companies may also subsidize “a significant portion” of the Apple Watch Series 1’s $269 cost, Aetna said. Individual customers will also be offered the chance to buy the watch at a discount, the company said, if they choose Aetna in the upcoming open enrollment season.
Aetna is the first U.S. insurer to subsidize Apple Watches, but other major insurers incorporate less expensive wearables, such as Fitbit or Misfit, into their wellness programs. Those can cost $100 to $150.
Cigna offers Fitbit and Misfit wearables to customers at 25 to 50 percent off retail, as well as discounts for wireless scales and blood pressure and glucose monitors.
The company studied 600 prediabetic, morbidly obese participants, offering health coaching by phone to all participants and fitness trackers to a smaller group. About 60 percent of those with devices continued past two calls, while only 20 percent of those without it continued. On average, the group wearing fitness trackers walked 3 miles and performed moderate activity for 49 minutes a day. The study did not ask the other group how much they exercised.
Cigna spokesman Joe Mondy said that incentives for using wellness coaching and/or wearables include about $750 in premium discounts, and cash or health savings account funds.
UnitedHealthcare offers wellness programs including wearables to more than 100,000 people in more than 40 states, including Connecticut. Employers give the devices for free to workers and spouses on the insurance…