Apple Reportedly Talking Smart Watch, Senior Care with MA Plans

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is reportedly in talks with multiple private Medicare plans about its smart watch product and the role it can play in preventing negative health outcomes for older adults.

Cupertino, California-based Apple released its redesigned and re-engineered Apple Watch toward the end of 2018. Among its features, the smart device boasts a fall-detection feature that can reliably identify when hard falls take place and, if needed, send an alert to emergency services. The latest smart watch, which enables users to take an electrocardiogram from their wrist, also offers obvious appeal in terms of heart health monitoring.

Falls and heart health are two major points of concern for older adults, especially those looking to independently age in place. The latest Apple Watch retails for a minimum of $399, however, leaving many seniors out in the cold when it comes to taking advantage of its benefits.

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At least three private Medicare plans are in discussions with Apple focusing on subsidizing some or all of that cost for individuals 65 and older, according to a new report from CNBC, citing people familiar with the talks.

Apple has connected with several large insurers, in addition to smaller, venture-backed Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, CNBC reported. So far, though, no deals have been struck.

Apple did not respond to Home Health Care News’ requests for comment.

“Avoiding one emergency room visit would more than pay for the device,” Bob Sheehy, CEO of insurance startup Bright Health and a former UnitedHealthcare CEO, told CNBC.

In general, an alliance with Apple is in line with insurers’ desires to better understand what’s going on in their members’ homes. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also announced in early 2018 newfound flexibility for MA plans to offer certain in-home services and supports, while also making moves to encourage and expand the use of telehealth tools.

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage is projected to be at an all-time high in 2019, with more than 22.6 million beneficiaries signing up for plans, according to CMS. MA penetration is on pace to hit 50% by 2025 — and 70% sometime between 2030 and 2040, research from global management consulting firm L.E.K. Consulting suggests.

Apple already has ample experience when it comes to working with insurers, CNBC reported.

In August, for example, the tech giant signed a deal with Aetna. In November, it teamed up with UnitedHealthcare on an active-lifestyle initiative.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Apple stock was up 1.30% and trading at $155.06.

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