Last month, Apple unveiled the latest version of its watch, featuring new health-monitoring features such as alerts for unusually low or high heart rates, and a way to sense when the wearer has fallen over and, if so, call the emergency services. In itself, that sounds pretty cool, and might even help save lives. But it’s also another nail in the coffin of social solidarity.
Why? Because shortly after the Apple announcement, one of America’s biggest insurance companies, John Hancock, announced it would stop selling traditional life insurance, and would now offer only “interactive” policies that required customers to wear a health-monitoring device – such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit. But such personalised insurance plans undermine the social spreading of risk that makes insurance a public good. Knowing every little dirty secret about our lifestyles, such an insurer will be heavily incentivised to make the riskier customers pay more in premiums than the healthy-livers. Eventually, the fortunate will subsidise the less fortunate to a far smaller degree than they do on traditional insurance models. For those who get sick, this will literally add insult to injury.
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