MA insurer startup Devoted Health first to subsidize Apple Watch

Apple Watch Series 5
Insurance startup Devoted Health is reportedly the first Medicare Advantage insurer to subsidize the cost of the Apple Watch to its customers. (Apple)

Insurance startup Devoted Health will be the first Medicare Advantage (MA) plan to subsidize the Apple Watch as a benefit to customers.

First reported by CNBC Monday, the announcement comes as Apple has been in talks with other MA plans to subsidize the cost of the watch to help seniors track their health.  

Devoted’s website says the $150 subsidy will be part of a fitness benefit for customers to apply to wearable devices such as the Apple Watch, which can run from $199 to up to $399 depending on the version.

“At Devoted Health, our mission is to treat those we cover with the kind of care that we would want for our own families. A big part of that is giving people the tools they need to keep healthy even outside of the doctor's office," said Kenneth Baer, Devoted spokesperson, in a statement. "We are pleased that CMS agrees that there is a wide variety of ways that older Americans can keep healthy, including fitness and nutrition classes, and activity monitoring devices such as the Apple Watch. We are thrilled to be the first Medicare Advantage plan to collaborate with Apple, and give our members the chance to use their Devoted Health Wellness bucks towards purchasing an Apple Watch."

RELATED: Devoted Health storms into Medicare Advantage market, backed by $300M funding round

Officials from Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Apple has sought to improve the number of health features on the watch, with the latest version including features such as fall detection and an electrocardiogram.

Devoted Health, a startup based in Minnesota, is focused primarily on the MA market, which offers coverage to about one-third of Medicare beneficiaries. It was co-founded by former Athenahealth executives Todd and Ed Park and has sought to distinguish itself as a so-called “payvidor” by offering healthcare services in the home in addition to partnering with physicians and hospitals in a traditional payer model.

While Devoted Health is the first, it likely won’t be the last.

UnitedHealth, for instance, launched a program in November 2018 that allowed members in some employer-sponsored plans to get an Apple Watch and to pay the insurer back by meeting walking goals.

Life insurance company John Hancock has a similar program that lets customers order an Apple Watch for only $25 and avoid any further charges for the watch if they exercise regularly and earn a certain number of points.