Health improvement insurance policies are facing growing consumer demand in South Korea. These are so named because they are insurance plans for individuals, with cancer, diabetes or other chronic illnesses, that provide monetary incentives for efforts taken to improve health, such as exercise.
According to the Financial Services Commission (FSC) and the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), four insurance companies have introduced health improvement insurance plans since April. The insurance companies developed their products based on guidelines for health improvement plans released by the FSC last December.The insurers sold 60,371 of these plans between April and May, reports JoongAng Daily.
“Until recently, insurance products have only played a passive role in providing insurance money for incidents such as disease and death,” said Ha Joo-sik, head of the Insurance Management Department of the FSC. “But with health improvement insurance, the insurance plans are evolving to allow consumers to prevent those incidents from occurring by taking care of their own health.”
Most plans keep track of subscribers’ physical conditions by measuring their exercise habits, such as walking and running, or by checking their dietary habits, blood sugar and physical fitness. This is usually done via smartphone apps, but smartwatches and wearable digital devices can also be synced to measure health indicators.
For example, AIA Life Insurance introduced a plan for cancer patients that gives discounts on insurance premiums for walking and tracking their exercise regime. It measures the number of steps taken each day through AIA’s Vitality app. Consumers are awarded points for meeting their daily walking, calorie-burning or other exercise-related goals. If a consumer reaches 10,000 points within one year of signing up, they receive a 10% discount on their monthly premium starting with their 14th payment.
Meanwhile, ING Life Insurance is offering a monthly insurance premium reimbursement of up to KRW500,000 ($450) for its critical illness insurance lifetime subscribers, depending on the number of months they averaged 10,000 steps per day and met physical fitness requirements. Physical fitness levels are determined by combining ratings on strength, endurance, flexibility and agility.
Hanwha Insurance has also released an insurance plan exclusively for diabetic patients. When subscribers achieve their health goals, such as checking their blood sugar levels or distance walked, they receive 50,000 points a year. Subscribers are awarded 1,000 points for walking 200,000 steps in 30 days and 5,000 points for getting their blood sugar levels checked at hospitals. Points can be used to purchase healthcare supplies and food on an app that gives subscribers KRW1 per point.
In addition to the four companies, 16 other insurance companies are in the process of developing health improvement plans, and some companies are planning to apply health improvement services to their existing plans, said Oh Hong-ju, director of the Insurance Supervision Bureau at the FSS.
However, insurance companies face obstacles as they are currently prohibited from collecting health data, such as blood pressure, from consumers through wearable devices.