Will They Be Used For Insurability

Could Sleep and Activity Trackers Become Required for Insurance?

For 2015 trackers are not part of the healthcare guidelines, but imagine looking twenty years into the future and seeing people whose health conditions are monitored continuously and reported instantly to a centralized computer server. Heartbeat, blood sugar, movement, location, position, and activities are all carefully tracked. At the moment of an adverse health event, or even before, emergency personnel are dispatched to bring afflicted people to hospitals. Similarly, parents (and the nanny state) may get alerts related to the presence of prohibited substances in a child’s bloodstream. The future is not as far away as you might think.

Obamacare ApplicationRight now there is a craze involving smart bracelets that can measure heart rate and movements. These items may gently vibrate if you are not active enough. They feed information into smartphone apps, which of course can send the data just about anywhere. For all you know, the NSA is aggregating your health information into your current location and a continuous livestream of what it is picking up from your smartphone camera, microphone, GPS, and gyroscopes. If you ever wondered why your cellphone battery life seems to run out so quickly, and the device is hot when nothing is running, now you have a better reason to be paranoid.

Tomorrow's Big Data Revolution

In the future, today’s technology will seem crude and obtrusively large. Sensors and microchips are already small enough to be implantable. Health monitoring equipment already gets installed surgically, and thousands of people are alive today because Implantable Defibrillators detected cardiac failure and shocked the heart back into a normal rhythm. New technology is allowing insulin to be delivered from implanted devices that monitor blood sugar and then decide how much medicine to release. Given enough time and miniaturization, a whole host of electronics can be added to the body.

Like Usage Based Insurance for Cars

Insurance companies and governments, of course, will not fail to see the opportunities. Monitoring the health of covered individuals offers the opportunity to reduce costs. On the side of the insurer, this could mean that people who don’t live a healthy lifestyle will either pay more or get dropped. People may have to endure a “trial period” of continuous data collection before getting a better health insurance rate. Big Data tools may aggregate and analyze factors related to exercise, location, activities, heart rate, and blood cholesterol before deciding what kind of policy you are offered.

The Orwellian aspects of this kind of healthcare risk management are obvious. People who want to go “off the grid” or “protect their privacy” will pay a much higher rate, or may not be able to shop for the lowest priced coverage. If state, local, or federal agencies are paying for insurance, they may justify the intrusion in the interest of providing affordable healthcare. Naturally, civil liberties advocates would see this as a way of controlling behavior, and they would be correct. Imagine getting a phone call at a restaurant telling you to stop eating fatty foods immediately, or to report to an approved exercise center immediately.

As stated above, the technology for pricing healthcare based on fitness data is already here. In car insurance, driving behavior is already being factored into premiums. Readily available devices can provide the same 24 hour big data monitoring and send it to servers around the world. These machines can already lump your health information into files that show your credit and debit card purchasing history, age, gender, driving record, and millions of other data points that you didn’t know you were giving away. (For example, when you make a post to social media, or upload a picture, or even send a text message, you reveal your location, opinions, and preferences to a big program that wants to sell ads to the very corporations that would like to get into your head.) In the not too distant future, you may be living in a real-world Matrix, where all of your actions serve to power a faceless public-private partnership of puppet masters.