Oscar to reward members whose fitness band data looks good
- The Misfit Flash is wearable tech that monitors your health, exercise and sleep regimens, and Oscar Health is going to start offering it to members for free as a way to find new economies that benefit members as well as the company. Effective Jan. 1, 2015, each member will be mailed a free Misfit Flash to help measure their daily activity.
- According to the company's blog, the idea is simple: Oscar will offer members a $240 rebate for members who use the Misfit Flash to demonstrate their healthy lifestyle. Based on the universally-accepted premise that healthy people spend less on healthcare, the insurer wants to place an emphasis on wellness that doesn't eat up premium dollars.
- The health plan says it's aware of the privacy issues that could arise from gathering beneficiaries' health data. Oscar executives have assured their customers that the data from the device will not be used as any kind of diagnostic tool or any other medical purpose.
According to Oscar's co-founder Mario Schlosser, who spoke to Wired Magazine, he was inspired to make this move by Flo, the Progressive Insurance spokeswoman from their TV commercials."If I stay accident free, my car insurer will lower my rates," Mario Schlosser, co-founder of Oscar, told Wired. "Why don't we give these rewards to people when they stay healthy?"
That being said, while all the blog posts and quotes on the subject have been very upbeat, there could also be a darker side to the program. Sure, healthy people will get rebates and likely enjoy lower premiums over the course of time. But what about the people who get the device, with all the best of intentions, and don’t perform up to snuff? It's not out of the realm of possibility that they could be penalized. After all, that formula works both ways.
Worse, despite Oscar's demurrals, data privacy issues are still a very real concern in this scheme. Health law attorneys note that until a clinician uses fitness band data directly to care for a patient, the data doesn't enjoy HIPAA protection.That means that Oscar can disclose the data or even sell it to data-hungry pharmas.
And then there's the reality that programs rewarding good health behavior or penalizing non-compliance have been a miserable failure for most employers, so much so that prominent journal HealthAffairs just published a piece trashing these efforts. What makes Schlosser think wellness rewards will somehow work this time?
- Fierce Health Payer Oscar Health to give members free, wearable fitness tracker