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 People practice yoga on the west lawn of Parliament Hill in Ottawa July 16, 2014.

People practice yoga on the west lawn of Parliament Hill in Ottawa July 16, 2014.
Photo Credit: Blair Gable / Reuters

Insurance company offers rebates for healthy lifestyle

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A Canadian insurance company is set to offer a new insurance program that rewards policy holders for healthy lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, getting an annual health screening or a flu shot.

Ontario-based insurance giant Manulife is partnering with Vitality Group to bring the program to Canada, after rolling out similar systems in parts of Africa, Asia and the United States.

“Manulife is moving away from being a traditional insurance company to one that actively partners with customers to help them achieve overall well-being, including physical and financial health,” Manulife Canada’s CEO Marianne Harrison said.

The company said sign-up process is similar to many insurance policies, in that applicants take an online test to determine their level of overall health and then are offered a premium.

Policy holders who enroll in the program receive personalized health goals and can log their activities using online and automated tools, which are integrated with the latest wearable fitness-tracking technology such as Fitbit, Manulife said.

They start accumulating points each time they complete health-related activities.

The more engaged they are with the program and involved in living a healthier lifestyle, the more points they can accumulate to earn other rewards and discounts from leading retailers, the company said in a release.

“We’ve found that when people purchase an integrated life insurance product and participate in the program, they are motivated to set goals and take steps to healthy living,” Vitality CEO Alan Pollard said in a statement.

Officials at the Office of Canada’s Privacy Commissioner said while they have not studied the insurance product offered by Manulife, they would encourage people to carefully consider the potential implications before sharing any personal information – especially sensitive information.

“In the age of big data, we recognize that more and more services are being offered in exchange for personal information,” said a statement by the office. “In fact, we identified the economics of personal information and the body as information as key themes during a priority setting exercise that culminated in June.”

Over the next five years, the office will be delving deeper into matters related to the commoditization of personal information and the new business models being developed around the use of big data, the Internet of things and mobile technologies.

“Similarly, we will be looking into the mounting privacy concerns related to highly sensitive health, genetic and biometric information that is being used by organizations and governments in all sorts of new ways,” said the statement. “In the past, we have raised questions regarding somewhat related issues, for instance the use of genetic test results by insurance companies.”

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