- Beginning this fall, Aetna will make the Apple Watch available to select employers and individual customers during benefits open enrollment season. With that move, the health insurer says it will be the first within its sector to subsidize a significant portion of the Apple Watch to health plan members — offering monthly payroll deductions to cover the remaining cost.
- In addition to its customer program, Aetna will provide Apple Watch at no cost to its nearly 50,000 employees, who will participate in the company's wellness reimbursement program, to encourage them to live more productive, healthy lives, according to a company statement.
- With Apple's support, Aetna is also planning several iOS-exclusive health initiatives, starting with integrated health apps for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, which are expected to significantly improve the ability of consumers to manage their health and increase healthy outcomes.
Employers whose workforces are already Aetna customers may find this an attractive opportunity, but there could be pitfalls, mainly the privacy issues connected to tech-related fitness tracking-type devices. Of course, as part of most wellness programs, it's common for employers to handle the cost of gym memberships, smoking cessation, weight reduction and other healthcare- and wellness-related efforts promising better employee health outcomes. Some brand name employers also are willing to pay for gadgets such as Fitbit.
For HR and the employers they serve, the operating idea here is that if employees get healthier via wellness programs and tech gadgets, health insurance premiums and overall healthcare costs will fall. Industry leaders have also caught onto the fact that behavioral health spending can have a huge positive impact on both workplace culture and wellness spending.
While early reports from the medical community on the Apple Watch's impact on healthcare outcomes were lukewarm, Aetna's move to go "all-in" with the gadget could prove to be a winning strategy.