As Insurers Offer Discounts For Fitness Trackers, Wearers Should Step With Caution

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Support for this podcast and the following message. Come from internet essentials from Comcast. Connecting more than six million low income people to low cost high speed internet at home. So students are ready for homework class graduation and more. Now, they're ready for anything millions of Americans use wearable devices that track how much they move how much they eat how. Well, they sleep how their blood pressure changes many insurance companies offer incentives to use these high tech trackers. But is your better health really what they're buying as they collect your data? Stephanie on Neil reports. Okay. You guys ready? Khaki Clinton Nelson Costa Mesa California is heading out on a walk with her two dogs Kona a boxer and max a small white dog of questionable pedigree ARC's with eager enthusiastic. Okay. But he'll Clooney Nelson says she rarely engaged in regular exercise, especially after a long day at work, but about three years ago, her employer the auto club of southern California made her enter colleagues and offer she couldn't refuse Donna Fitbit. Walk every day and get up to three hundred dollars off her yearly health insurance premiums. I thought why don't I try this? Maybe it will motivate me, and it really did this year. An estimated six million workers worldwide will receive wearable fitness trackers for workplace wellness programs. Many of these voluntary programs offer employees free or discounted wearable trackers and annual financial incentives that range from about one hundred dollars to more than two thousand dollars depending upon the company for Clooney Nelson. The incentive money does the trick. It. Encourage you to get up and move. I mean, how many times do you get to the end of the day? And you think gosh, I didn't really get it from my desk at all today. Encouraging workers to get fit makes financial sense says United Healthcare spokesman, we'll Shanley the health insurance giant offers employer. Sponsored plans that promote three walking goals with an easy to remember acronym. It's called fit frequency intensity and tenacity. Those who each day moved frequently walk with moderate intensity, and log ten thousand steps can earn more than a thousand dollars a year toward healthcare spending. And Shanley says it's not just the already fit who are signing into the program the participation rates for people with chronic conditions. Especially people with diabetes is actually significantly higher than for people without those conditions, but just how much fitness trackers contribute. If at all to better health into lower healthcare spending. Isn't yet known among the studies that cast doubt on their effectiveness is one published by the university of Pittsburgh in two thousand sixteen. It found young adults who use fitness trackers lost less weight than those in a control group. Andrew boy teaches biomedical and health information sciences at the university of Illinois at Chicago. The clinicians are trying to figure out what is the most effective use of this technology in order to engage patients while Boyd urges caution before trading data for dollars. It's important to be aware of the type of information or tracker is revealing about your health. He says and to know exactly how it will be use your incentives could offer a clue if they're offering you two three times the amount of money that every other insurance company is offering you there's something else they value in the data that they're giving you the cash for for instance, he says if the Affordable Care Act is ever repealed. Insurers could use the fitness data that they're collecting today to deny you coverage based on a medical condition. Your tracker picks up United Healthcare's Shanley says his company collects only step data. The same goes for Oscar the tech driven health insurer that serves. The individual market senior. Vice president Sarah Weinberg says fitness tracking is done through Oscars app. Where customers are encouraged to log into other healthcare services that save them in the insure money. When people start engaging in step tracking. They engage in other parts of our product more than others do like Intel medicine, Kathy Clooney, Nelson says while she sometimes does worry about what could happen to the personal data her Fitbit collects she's grateful for the financial incentives that keep her walking at the office and at home. It's just that nudge, you know, get up and walk do something productive. And that kind of has been helpful for me for NPR news. I'm Stephanie O'Neil.

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