Why This Insurer Wants You to Wear a Health Tracker

Why This Insurer Wants You to Wear a Health Tracker
Image credit: Misfit
Fit fashion: The Misfit Mesh Band.
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This story appears in the May 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

While investors and venture capitalists struggle to find ways to monetize wearable technology, New York-based Oscar Insurance has made it a critical component of policyholders’ daily lives. 

Customers can request a plastic, Bluetooth-enabled Misfit Flash pendant for free and wear it to keep track of daily activity and sleep goals as defined by Oscar. When a Misfit user reaches a goal, the news is reported to Oscar automatically through an app on the policyholder’s smartphone. 

Those who meet their goals can earn up to $1 a day (a maximum of $20 per month and $240 a year), paid in the form of Amazon gift cards. Typical daily targets include taking 10,000 steps or walking roughly 5 miles, sleeping more than seven hours a night and getting up to move every 30 minutes.

“This is our biggest investment to date into the wellness of members,” says Oscar CEO Mario Schlosser. “For years health insurance was about charging more for increased risk. We’re looking at it from the opposite direction, and telling people we can give them more value for being healthier.”

Oscar pays $50 for each Misfit Flash device. Schlosser says “tens of thousands” have been deployed to policyholders since the program launched in late 2014.

Moving forward, the Oscar team wants to bump up the gamification aspect of the program. Currently, Misfit users can opt to see data from the Flash device in the context of other policyholders’ data, effectively creating their own leaderboards. Schlosser says Oscar is toying with ideas for how to capitalize on this feature and is considering promotions through which policyholders in one area (say, Manhattan) can compete with those in another area (Brooklyn) for the title of fittest in a region.

It’s too early to tell how much money Oscar’s merry band of Misfit policyholders are saving in healthcare costs, and even Schlosser admits that it’ll be hard to pin down an exact number. 

“There are always healthy people who come down with illnesses that cost a ton to treat,” he says. “But there’s enough evidence that some very basic changes in lifestyle do make a difference in people’s health.” 

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