One of America’s oldest insurance companies, John Hancock, has its eyes set firmly on the future. With the arrival of Big Data and the now never-ending stream of information that is available to data brokers on individuals in nearly real time, the lure of using it for customer analytics and behavior modification has become irresistible.
According to a recent announcement cited by Reuters, the company is taking the unprecedented step of “selling only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones.” Previously, John Hancock created its interactive policies as a supplement to traditional life insurance, but now the “Vitality” program will encompass ALL policies beginning in 2019, as well as converting old policies to the new model.
If that isn’t creepy enough, there is a de facto rewards program that is tied into individual performance metrics:
Policyholders score premium discounts for hitting exercise targets tracked on wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch and get gift cards for retail stores and other perks by logging their workouts and healthy food purchases in an app.
In theory, everybody wins, as policyholders are incentivized to adopt healthy habits and insurance companies collect more premiums and pay less in claims if customers live longer.[…]
John Hancock’s U.S. life insurance customers can choose from a basic Vitality program in which customers log their activity in an app or website and can receive gift cards for major retailers after reaching their milestones, or an expanded program that offers wearable devices and discounts of up to 15 percent on premiums, among other benefits, the company said.
This was an eventuality that has been cautioned against by anyone concerned about the massive troves of data that governments and corporations have either stolen from us or have been gifted by us through our participation with high-tech gadgetry.
It’s also an incentive structure (behavior modification) that was added to the Affordable Care Act, unbeknownst to many.
Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act that went into effect in 2014, employers can offer wellness incentives of up to 30 percent of the total cost of health care coverage. According to the Health Affairs blog, that amounts to nearly $1,800 for an employee-only health plan. (Incentives can reach 50 percent for programs that address smoking cessation.)[…]
Building on the principles of behavioral economics, and taking advantage of increasingly sophisticated wearable devices from vendors such as Fitbit, Garmin, Misfit and Withings, more companies are tying incentives to fitness activities that are monitored regularly and that are more likely to result in long-term behavior change. It’s a lot like the “good driver” discounts that auto insurers such as Allstate, Progressive and State Farm offer drivers who agree to have their driving behavior monitored.
But now the part about “agreeing to have their behavior monitored” is becoming a bit less defined. In fact, we are beginning to see the full measure of how a technocratically designed and incremental social management system can be constructed in plain view.
Is China’s much-maligned social credit system for the “perfect citizen” really that far off from becoming a reality in the supposedly democratic West?
NOTE: Please also read from B.N. Frank the potential health impact as the required use of these devices spreads.
Nicholas West writes for Activist Post.