MassMutual is the latest life insurance company to embrace behavioral insurance to help improve the health and longevity of its policyholders and reduce premature death claims.
The new initiative, dubbed MassMutual Health and Wellness Program, is aimed to give eligible policyholders a deeper understanding of their health, enabling them to make informed decisions to lead longer and healthier lives. The program offers a range of tools, offerings, and research to offer insights into potential health risks and encourage healthy behaviors and lifestyles.
Behavioral insurance has been around for a while in health, auto, and home coverage, but US companies were relatively slow to apply the dynamics to life insurance. This type of insurance underwrites, prices, and pays out according to a customer’s behavior. Auto insurers use telematics or mobile apps that can reward drivers with lower premiums based on their driving habits. Health insurers feature wellness programs that can provide either credit or health savings account contributions linked to positive health behaviors. There are also home insurance discounts for consumers who use household security equipment, smart locks, and doorbell cameras.
John Hancock was likely the first to apply behavioral criteria to life insurance with its Hancock Vitality product eight years ago. Vitality clients can accumulate points for simple health related activities like walking, eating healthier, getting regular checkups, and getting a flu shot, to earn premium savings as well as rewards and benefits.
Behavioral health program provides ‘value’
“What’s good for our policyholders is good for us,” said Adam Fox, head of distribution, technology and data science for MassMutual. “Through these programs, we’re able to provide value, which in turn will open new segments for clients, building deeper relationships with them so that they stay with us longer. And then the experience of better mortality, fewer claims, means we’re able to then pay higher dividends.”
One of the standout features of the Mass Mutual program is a research collaboration with Genomics PLC. In a test of the plan, eligible policyholders were provided with a genetic risk assessment service, offering information on their likelihood of developing common diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Interestingly, one in five policy holders discovered they may be at higher risk for preventable diseases. About 71% of those who participated planned to take preventative action based on their genetic risk assessments, including physician-recommended diagnostic tests and health and lifestyle modifications.
Healthcare visits increased
The study showed that reported healthcare visits within four months of receiving high-risk results doubled, underscoring the value of such genetic assessments. Due to the success and interest generated by the initial research collaboration, MassMutual plans to expand this offering to additional policy holders, becoming the first life insurance carrier to do so. The expanded service will also assess individuals’ risk levels for additional diseases.
“At no point is MassMutual informed of any results,” Fox said, stressing that policyholder privacy is paramount. “If someone undergoes this genetic screening, they work directly with a group that we partnered with the genomics firm; they provide a sample to that firm, and then they work with that firm to meet with a genetic counselor to review the results. We get some very high-level aggregate information. But we don’t get anything even close to individualized records.”
Other insurers that have begun offering behavioral discounts and credits include Manulife International, in Asia and Europe. The concept is closely related to the behavioral economics most insurers use in designing products, selling, and marketing. It is also related to what’s called the “nudge theory,” the idea that by shaping the environment, also known as the choice architecture, one can influence the likelihood that one option is chosen over another’
More than 71% of deaths worldwide are related to just four chronic diseases: diabetes, respiratory ailments, cardiovascular disease, and cancers. Most are linked to lifestyle choices, statistics show, involving smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, and lack of physical exercise.
Cancer detection test partnership
Another key part of MassMutual’s program is with a partnership with GRAIL, LLC. Eligible policyholders were given access to multi-cancer early detection testing using GRAIL’s Galleri® test that can detect a shared cancer signal across more than 50 types of cancer, some of which have no other form of screening available.
The test can even predict the tissue or organ where the cancer signal originated, providing valuable guidance for diagnostic evaluation. Of the more than 2,200 policyholders who participated in the pilot program, nearly two dozen positive cancer signals were detected. The confirmed cases are currently being determined in consultation with medical providers. About, 94 percent of participating policyholders reported a positive overall experience with their testing, prompting MassMutual to consider an expansion of this offering.
“We weren’t sure what to expect, really, when we launched the genomics program,” said Fox. “We originally went in with the goal of getting 750 people to participate, which I thought was a stretch. “We opened the testing, started doing marketing about it the first week of June 2022, and we had to shut down marketing within two weeks, because the response rate was so strong. It caught me off guard. It’s a good offering, but just the sheer volume of responses and the excitement was surprising.”
Fox attributes the response to a growing desire of consumers to better understand and control their health and well-being.
Other innovations being explored
MassMutual is also exploring innovative ways to incentivize and reward healthy behaviors using data from wearable devices. The MassMutual Wellness-Enhanced Lifestyle & Longevity (WELL) Rider pilot, launched last month, offers new term life insurance policyholders the opportunity to earn cash incentives of up to 5% of their annual policy premiums by voluntarily tracking and reporting their physical activity and sleep data through the app.
Fox agrees that it has taken a while for life insurers to embrace behavioral insurance but it’s a trend that is growing.
It’s certainly something that you’re seeing emerge, he said. “ I think we’ll see it continue to emerge over the next several years. It’s in its early days but I would expect every carrier would have these programs within the next five or 10 years.”
Doug Bailey is a journalist and freelance writer who lives outside of Boston. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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