Health insurer will pay you to get fit with a Misfit Flash

It begins - get $1 a day for hitting that 10,000 steps target
This health insurer will pay you to get fit

Fake applause, motivational messages and gamified challenges are all very well but good, old-fashioned cash could be the way to get more of us exercising.

That's the thinking behind the insurance company Oscar's new fitness scheme. It's handing out 20,000 free Misfit Flash trackers to customers who want to sign up to sync their daily steps to their health insurance account. Targets are determined by an algorithm starting at 2,000 steps and topping out at just over 10,000 steps a day, moving up and down as users hit or miss their goals. Meet your daily target, get a dollar.

Oscar's tech-savvy co-founder Mario Schlosser told CNBC: "It's a big carrot hanging in front of you. The original motivation was that we wanted to give people the nudge to stay healthy."

Steps are the only metric being measured for now but sleep tracking could be added further down the line. If more expensive devices are handed out by Oscar or other companies, there's the potential to track anything from estimated calories burned to time spent sat down.

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'Do-it-yourself health' is a huge trend in the making and Oscar is just one of the first companies in the US to get the ball rolling. In 2015, we'll see other insurance companies follow suit as well as doctors, employers and gyms handing out free wearable devices in return for some kind of data.

It's worth noting that, Misfit freebie aside, Oscar isn't giving its customers an actual discount. Once the monthly $20 maximum has been accrued, users cash this out in the form of an Amazon voucher, not money off their plan.

As we've seen with Facebook and Twitter, most of us are willing to give up huge amounts of information in return for getting a free service. But the information collected by fitness trackers won't be used to sell adverts based on our interests, it can be used to determine how likely we are to become seriously ill and how much health insurance we should be paying as a result.

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That $20 a month is a small price for insurance companies to pay to get access to all that fitness, health and sleeping data. Earlier this year, Runtastic founder Florian Gschwanter told Forbes that he'd stopped taking meetings with insurers after it became clear that they wanted him to consult on how to access data from health tracking apps.

Insurance companies are set to win on costs as healthier customers should lead to lower instances of heart disease, obesity and diabetes and less hospital time. But they also win on data - the more they know about customers' habits and history, the more they can incentivise them to stay healthy and tweak premiums.

Still, for anyone who wouldn't mind a free (Oscar branded) Misfit Flash and an extra motivational nudge each month, the plan could be a win win if you're willing to let your insurer know you only did 2,500 steps today.


  • Anomoly says:

    I think it's a great idea, if more companies would jump on it seems like a win win for all. 

  • biteme says:

    My neighbour recently had his 2nd heart attack - he's a farmer, Nothing enormous... a smallhold, really. But, for 40 years he probably walked and ran 10 miles+ per day. Did his cardiologists tell him to cut back on meat and dairy? Nope. Alcohol? Nope... They told him to get a bicycle or walk 2 miles a day! True story.

  • TiRa says:

    Sounds nice, getting an incentive for doing healthy things, but  really -- your health data is worth far, far more than a monthly $20 Amazon voucher. That data WILL be used for the insurance companies' profit: adjusting premiums, determining coverage and what and how much of claims will be paid. If it isn't already be done somewhere, it will be, and by more and more companies. It's unrealistic to think that it will only about incentives; there is already a push to use punitive measures with these fitness trackers. (See Forbes article "Wearable tech is plugging into health insurance" and stikK start-up.) This health data can -- and I believe will -- be used against the person generating it, as well as used against others who fit similar demographic data (age, sex, race/ethnicity, educational level, income level, etc) who aren't sharing their personal health data.

    Be very, very wary of what you are sharing and with whom. Think twice about incentive-based employer health programs where you are required to share your health info; your employer wants to save money on insurance, and if your employer is self-insured, even more so. No one has perfect health forever, and insurance companies care more about their money than they do about you. The information you voluntarily share today WILL be used against you later, maybe years later. It's naïve to think otherwise.

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