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This App Will Raise Or Lower Your Insurance Deductible Based On Physical Activity

Your phone is judging you. All you have to do is submit to monitoring and you’ll have all the incentive you need to get to the gym.

If you’re a regular gym-goer who can resist the temptation to ditch the free weights every time you’re feeling lazy, Pact Health has a proposition for you: If you keep your gym commitments, you’ll get money off your health insurance deductible. Miss a planned gym trip, and your deductible gets bigger.

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Insurance plans with high deductibles–that is, plans that require patients to pony up large sums of money before insurance starts paying for care–are becoming increasingly popular. And, according to an AP poll, they are preventing people from getting the care they need. Among poll respondents, 19% of privately insured adults say that they have neglected to go to the doctor when they were sick. That number jumped to 29% for people with high-deductible plans.


“We saw a very interesting opportunity,” says Yifan Zhang, the CEO of Pact. “There’s no reason your deductible has to be a dumb deductible–an incentive that doesn’t change. If we can change people’s behavior, we’re generating value for insurance companies.”

Pact (formerly known as Gym Pact), already has an app that allows users to make commitments and make or lose money depending on whether they follow through. There are currently three kinds of pacts available: Gym Pact, which counts any run, bike ride that takes more than 30 minutes, visit to the gym, or 10,000 steps of walking as a workout; Veggie Pact, where members take photos of their fruit and vegetable consumption and get them verified by the community; and Food Log Pact, which lets members make money from consistent food logging on MyFitnessPal.

Say you want to start exercising three times a week. For every day you work out, you’ll get a cash reward. Fail to meet your three times a week threshold, though, and you lose cash, which then goes into the pool that pays members who fulfill their commitments. Pact tracks exercise using GPS (to see whether you’re actually at your local gym and that you’re staying there for at least 30 minutes), step trackers like Fitbit, partner apps like RunKeeper, and an internal step tracker.

Pact Health operates in a similar manner. Employers sign up for the plan (Pact Health is a supplemental health plan that’s purchased in addition to a regular plan), and their employees have the option to set exercise goals. For every workout completed, they get $5 off their deductible. Every missed workout adds $5 to the deductible. Participants can earn up to $1,300 in deductible savings each year–not a bad deal. If they miss all of their planned exercise, they can add up to $500 onto their deductible.

The terrifying prospect of having to pay even more for health care is probably a bigger motivator than any potential savings. But employees don’t have to participate at all if they don’t want.

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The idea of offering insurance incentives for wellness isn’t new; some insurers also threaten employees with higher deductibles if they fail to take certain steps towards wellness, like quitting smoking. Pact Health is yet another way to keep health costs down by ensuring that employees take steps towards wellness (albeit one that feels a little Big Brother-ish).

Pact Health rolls out in December in Massachusetts. Other states will soon follow.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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