Bariatric Issues: potential use of activity tracker data by insurance companies to set premiums

The online magazine Slate.com published an interesting article on 9-11-14, “Insurance Companies Want To Use Your Personal Data to Determine Your Premiums”

The article discussed how insurance companies are beginning to use data from their member’s various devices to set premium rates.  The most common current example is the use of data from a car device that is used to track the driver’s behavior. The article also discusses the plans of insurance companies to expand this to include home monitoring devices and, more of interest to wellness professionals and consumers, activity tracking devices.

The article includes, “Health trackers can send data to employers and/or directly to insurance companies so employees can show that they are staying healthy or getting healthier, and potentially get lower insurance bills. It’s mutually beneficial in the sense that customers are paying less and insurance companies are reducing their risk of having to pay out during a big medical emergency like a heart attack or stroke.”

And, “A recent Daily Herald piece gives the example of a male 260-pound BP employee who used a FitBit to log more than a million steps over several months, during which he lost 70 pounds. The result was an annual insurance bill that was $1,200 cheaper for him. And with quantified-self sensors improving and expanding their features all the time, this scenario may become the norm. You can even see how the new Apple Watch would fit in, since it allows people to share information about their heart beats in addition to collecting typical fitness data.”

But, the author notes, “…he possibility of cheaper premiums can be a distraction from potential downsides and serious privacy concerns. For example, someone who is committed to losing weight may be unfairly penalized if they struggle to achieve significant results in spite of genuine effort…”

This seems particularly problematic for bariatric patients, who may be “doing all the right things” but are unable to lose adequate weight due to genetic, hormonal or metabolic problems.

The author concludes, “t may just seem like fitness data, but it’s an unprecedented window into your life for people who aren’t necessarily working in your interest. It may all seem far away now, but there’s big money in personal data and insurance so this isn’t going away. Time to start thinking about what you’d be willing to share, and what you would want to keep private.”   Seems like wise advice to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>