Fitness wearables could form part of Irish life insurance

Irish insurers may examine the use of fitness trackers and wearable devices to determine insurance policies in the future, an industry body has said.

Fitness wearables could form part of Irish life insurance

By Pádraig Hoare and Suzanne Barlynn

Irish insurers may examine the use of fitness trackers and wearable devices to determine insurance policies in the future, an industry body has said.

Insurance Ireland was reacting as US giant John Hancock said it will stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones.

John Hancock unveiled its first interactive life insurance policy in 2015. It is now applying the model across all of its life coverage.

Interactive life insurance is already well-established in South Africa and Britain and is becoming more widespread in the US.

Policyholders score premium discounts for hitting exercise targets tracked on wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch.

Proponents say policyholders are incentivised to adopt healthy habits and insurance companies collect more premiums and pay less in claims if customers live longer.

Critics argue insurers may eventually use data to select the most profitable customers, while hiking rates for those who are not.

Insurance Ireland, which represents 95% of the domestic market and more than 80% of Ireland’s international life insurance market in the Republic, said it was too early to say if Ireland would follow the global trend.

“Globally, insurers are increasingly looking at the potential of technology for more tailored product offerings, such as promoting healthy lifestyles, and this reflects changes in customer preferences.

“The product referred to appears to be a new development in the life insurance market internationally and it is not possible to say what the potential for such products is in Ireland, however, individual insurers may examine the commercial potential of such products.”

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