US wearable tech firm Misfit has teamed up with a New Jersey based Oscar Health Insurance company to distribute fitness trackers and pay users to use them. As of the coming year those insured through Oscar Health Insurance will receive a free Misfit Flash fitness tracker, a $25 value. The insurance company will as will issue their clients incentives to use the device in the form of $240 in Amazon gift cards (specifically, a $20 card for every twenty consecutive days where they either meet or surpass a movement goal, capping out at $240 per year). The device will as will be linked to a mobile app unique to the insurance company, where the data can be viewed and shared with the insurance company.
Speaking with Forbes magazine, Oscar Health Insurance co-founder Mario Schlosser explained what the insurance company stands to gain, citing the benefits a person receives merely from motivating and monitoring an increase in regular daily movement, and saying that an active and thus healthier client is therefore a cheaper client for the insurance company. The point of this program is for them to become more of a preventative health insurance company, one that actively works towards keeping clients healthier.
Such innovations have been exactly what proselytizers of Big Data have been cheer-leading for some time, though the actual merits of such programs and innovations are still being debated.
But to perhaps to a more pressing point, Schlosser also spoke dispelling fears that the information might be used to penalize the inactive. He told Forbes that:
“We will never link this to anything punitive, and it will never enter our review process. After learning the insurance industry inside and out, I’m very comfortable with insurance companies having this data. We are so heavily regulated on what we do with information–especially compared to other health apps on your phone.”This reassurance is certainly a comfort, but falls well below the mark of those concerned with privacy, who might be more focused on how Oscar Health Insurance plans on managing and safeguarding the data they will be collecting. This is particularly interesting in light of recent allegations against the Uber taxi company, who have recently been facing accusations of just how easy it is for employees to access user information. In the coming months, those vigilant for privacy will likely be closely monitoring this activity.