Apple and insurance firm Aetna are currently holding secret discussions on how to bring the Apple Watch to the insurance company’s roughly 23 million subscribers.
Those meetings took place Thursday and Friday of last week, three sources familiar with the matter told CNBC. Those in attendance included senior executives from both companies, along with chief hospital staff members from across the country. They apparently discussed Apple offering a free or heavily discounted Apple Watch to all Aetna subscribers, with an implementation timeline that could kick in early next year. The program would be an expansion of existing plans to subsidize Watch costs for large employers and individual customers, CNBC added.
Aetna already offers free Apple Watches to its roughly 50,000 employees as part of its corporate wellness initiatives. The move to bring Apple’s wearable to its insurance subscribers is apparently part of a larger push by Aetna to boost its customers’ interest in a healthier lifestyle, one of CNBC’s sources said. Aetna added that it would develop proprietary iOS initiatives — including “deeply integrated” health apps — with support from Apple.
Although the move could stand to benefit Aetna, it’s also likely to be a boon to Apple’s overall Watch sales. “This is a logical step for Apple’s broader distribution of their watch, and this type of partnership has been on their radar from the beginning,” said Tim Bajarin, president of tech advisory firm Creative Strategies. Cupertino has also placed heavy focus on the wellness applications of the Apple Watch, and it marketed its flagship wearable as a centerpiece of corporate wellness programs last year.
Apple, which recently overtook Fitbit as the top-selling wearable manufacturer, is largely expected to debut a new Apple Watch this fall. While rumors about the new device have been fairly sparse, some of them suggest upcoming features such as a new design and integrated LTE chip that would allow the next-gen Watch to connect to the internet without an iPhone nearby.