Insurance Deductions For Using Health-Monitoring Apps, Risks And Rewards

Generali will be Europe's first insurer to link use of personal digital applications and 'big data' to insurance rates. But in Germany, fears about privacy and 'atomization' of insurance.

Nike FuelBand is among the most popular devices driving the so-called "quantified-self" trend.
Nike FuelBand is among the most popular devices driving the so-called "quantified-self" trend.
Anne-Christin Gröger

COLOGNE — A healthier diet, exercise, better living. Who wouldn’t want that? In contrast to the complacent masses, there is that small group of fitness-obsessed people who really do try and work on a perfect version of themselves, daily, conscientiously, verifiably.

These are also the ideal clients for insurance companies. To meet their goal of a better me, self-optimizers even voluntarily let themselves be monitored.

And now – the first major insurer in Europe to do so – the Generali Group will be controlling client fitness, lifestyle and nutrition electronically. For this so-called telemonitoring the company is cooperating with the South African insurer Discovery, which developed the Vitality health program that rewards clients with coupons, gifts and discounts if they maintain a healthy lifestyle. And it is verified by individual digital monitoring.

Consumers who opt for Generali’s new life or health insurance model have to provide the company with regular information about their lifestyle. That works with the help of an app that documents check-up appointments, counts walking steps, measures sports activities. Healthy nutrition also is part of the package.

"This allows us to strengthen our ties to our clients," Generali CEO Mario Greco told investors recently. "We also influence their behavior, and healthier clients are better for us."

In a first step, policy holders who behave in healthly ways get coupons for travel and a fitness studio. The next step is premium reductions. The new policies should be available in Europe within the next 12 to 18 months.

Generali is thus taking a big step in the use of personal client information or "Big Data." In the same category are attempts on the part of insurers to get information about driver behavior with the help of black boxes in cars and turn it into a point system that would impact policy pricing. In privacy-conscious Germany client interest has lagged behind the high demand registered so far in Italy and the UK.

In addition to Generali, Allianz, Axa and other insurers are working on similar projects. They are promising clients to help them as they pursue a healthier lifestyle. All the companies stress that they only use data that clients give them freely. The companies want to get to know their clients as precisely as possible so they can offer individual rates.

Risks and rewards

The thinking is that people who follow a healthy lifestyle cost the insurers less money. In return they will receive premium reductions. The opposite also holds true: whoever takes more lifestyle risks pays more. Long-term, that’s the greatest risk of the new system: whoever is unwilling to share such information about themselves with the insurer will eventually be bound to pay considerably more for insurance.

One of the pioneers of the new system is the American health insurer United Healthcare. For three years it has been offering clients a discount if they take a specific number of steps daily and can prove it. Generali is now following a similar path.

Consumer-protection advocates are skeptical. "I am very critical of the idea that policy holders provide individual information to receive discounted offers," says Peter Grieble of the Verbraucherzentrale (consumer advice center) Baden-Württemberg. "The client doesn’t know how his data is going to be processed by the company and who has access to it."

It should be noted however that already now private health insurers have a comprehensive overview of each client’s state of health in the form of medical bills and prescriptions.

Individualized rates risk undermining insurance's most basic principles. Insurers balance various risks out across many clients and over time. That is the core of the business. With individualized rates the companies are trying to attract the "best" risks in the hopes that the competition will have to deal with the others.

Despite the advertised discounts, the companies aim is to make bigger profits. Felix Hufeld, head insurance supervisor at Germany's Federal Financial Supervisory Authority BaFin, takes a critical view of the new possibilities for data evaluation.

Speaking at a recent Suddeutsche Zeitung conference in Cologne, Hufeld said: "If we follow the thought through to its logical end, this could lead to the atomization of the collective."

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more Chicago Bulls or running of the bulls? Let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com info@worldcrunch.com!

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