Aetna to Give Away iPhones

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Health insurance giant Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) will start to give away Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch as part of an experiment. However, the products will go to a precious few, except for Aetna’s 50,000 employees, who will get free Apple Watches.

The insurer’s comments about the program:

Aetna announced a new initiative to revolutionize members’ consumer health experience by combining the power of iOS apps and the unmatched user experience of Apple products including Apple Watch, iPhone and iPad with Aetna’s analytics-based wellness and care management programs. Beginning this fall, Aetna will make Apple Watch available to select large employers and individual customers during open enrollment season, and Aetna will be the first major health care company to subsidize a significant portion of the Apple Watch cost, offering monthly payroll deductions to make covering the remaining cost easier.

In addition to the customer program, Aetna will provide Apple Watch at no cost to its own nearly 50,000 employees, who will participate in the company’s wellness reimbursement program, to encourage them to live more productive, healthy lives.

With support from Apple, Aetna is planning several iOS-exclusive health initiatives, starting with deeply integrated health apps for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch that will significantly improve the ability of consumers to manage their health and increase healthy outcomes. The initial solutions under development are among the first health apps designed for multi-device use.

Wireless devices, particularly smartwatches like those from Fitbit, have been marketed as a way to improve health, particularly through exercise. The question about the Aetna initiative is whether people will use them for health reasons or simply more traditionally as tablet, smartphone and wearable devices. If the latter, then the experiment won’t go far.