If you’re having trouble getting off the couch to go for a walk, maybe some cash will help.
Oscar Insurance, a New York-based startup, now sends members a free Misfit wristband to track their steps, and whenever someone reaches a daily goal for a certain number of steps, the company pays them.
“We were fascinated with the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendation that if you walk around 10,000 steps a day, you will have a real impact on almost all the top killers in the U.S., like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure,” says Mario Schlosser, co-founder of Oscar Insurance. “If you just get a bit more physically active, you can avoid those conditions getting worse, or make them better.”
Members of the insurance plan download an app, and then get a wristband in the mail that automatically syncs up as soon as someone puts it on. Each day, someone can earn a dollar for reaching their goal, and at the end of the month, Oscar Insurance sends them a $20 Amazon gift card.
Since someone with a sedentary lifestyle probably wouldn’t walk 10,000 steps immediately, the company adjusts goals based on fitness. ” We want to get you up to 10,000 steps, that’s the far goal, but we start you off much more slowly,” Schlosser says. “We start you off with about 2,000 steps per day. And then we look at your weeks of activity and how active you really are, and try to push you a little bit further, and slowly push you up a couple thousand steps.”
Unlike similar apps like Pact Health, which raises or lowers your insurance deductible based on how much you exercise, Oscar’s new program doesn’t have a built-in financial punishment; if you don’t reach your goal, you just don’t get paid.
“If you choose to stay healthy, if you choose to move around, that’s when you can get this,” Schlosser says. “But you don’t have to.”
For the startup, founded by tech entrepreneurs who want to drag the insurance industry into the modern world, the program is only a first step with wearables. “We can start using some of this fitness data and health data to help you plan your health better,” says Schlosser. “If you’re diabetic, you probably might see a doctor once a quarter or so, and talk with our nurse a couple of times on the phone. But now, suddenly, if you let us share your data with the doctor, they can see the activity you have in the meantime.”
Future programs may use more sophisticated wearables that track sleep, blood pressure, or blood sugar levels. “When we started Oscar, there was the fitness tracker, and there was the world of health insurance, and the two rarely spoke,” Schlosser says. “So it’s exciting to be in the middle of a sea of new information for providers that hopefully can contribute to better care.”