August 18, 2017

Aetna and Apple secretly discuss bringing Apple Watch to Aetna members

Daily Briefing

    Top executives from Aetna and Apple last week met privately to discuss providing Aetna's more than 23 million members with free or discounted Apple Watches, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

    Background

    Aetna already offers Apple Watches to its 50,000 employees as part of its corporate wellness program, as well as to people enrolled in Aetna plans under "select large employers," The Hill reports. As a result of the new negotiations, however, the insurer could expand the offer to all its customers—a move that one person familiar with the discussions said was in line with Aetna's efforts to boost consumer involvement in healthy living and diet tracking.

    Moreover, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal, the deal could "help Apple make its Watch a 'must own.'" Apple Watch recently became the top-selling wearable tracker, CNBC reports, and the deal with Aetna could help solidify Apple's lead over competitors such as Fitbit and Xiaomi.

    According to the Business Journal, Apple plans to add a noninvasive blood-sugar monitor for diabetes patients to its Apple Watch, hiring a team of at least 30 biomedical engineers to work on the project. Apple has initiated feasibility trials at several clinical sites throughout the Bay Area, the Business Journal reports, although the company will also have to get FDA approval before the Watch can be used for diabetes monitoring.

    New developments

    According to CNBC, Myoung Cha—whose LinkedIn profile indicates that he works in Apple's "special projects, health"—led the invitation-only meetings on Thursday and Friday of last week. Executive officers at Apple and Aetna were in attendance, as were CMIOs from hospitals across the country, CNBC reports.

    A person familiar with the discussions told CNBC that Aetna could make the Watches available to consumers as soon as early 2018. Neither Apple nor Aetna responded to CNBC's requests for comment (Breland, The Hill, 8/14; Hall, Silicon Valley Business Journal, 8/14; Farr/McCracken, CNBC, 8/14).

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