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Garmin and Samsung wearables could earn you health care savings

Unitedhealthcare is the latest insurer to tap into fitness trackers.
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Edgar Alvarez/Engadget

Wearable devices for health and fitness aren't anything new, of course, but insurance companies aren't really known for their fast response to tech trends. That may be changing, though, as big companies like Aetna and John Hancock have started offering steep discounts on devices like the Apple Watch, as long as customers use the gadgets to track their activity. Now insurance company UnitedHealthcare is looking to integrate both Garmin and Samsung wearables into its own bring-your-own-device program that rewards members for meeting daily walking goals.

The new program, dubbed UnitedHealthcare Motion, allows you to use a Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, Gear Sport or Garmin Vivosmart 3 to track your steps and earn up to $4 per day (for a maximum of $1,000 per year) in HSA or HRA credits if you reach the company's specific fitness goals. These include completing 500 steps within seven minutes six times per day at least an hour apart, completing 3,000 steps within 30 minutes and racking up 10,000 total steps every day. The trackers will be available at a discount (or even free) to plan participants via a dedicated page of the UnitedHealthcare website. Qualcomm is involved in keeping the data secure as it is shared with the insurer via the Motion app, as well as integrating devices that people already own.

While a program like this definitely benefits consumers both monetarily and health-wise, it's probably more about the insurance company saving money in the long run. "Studies have shown walking can be an effective way to help improve well-being and reduce medical costs," said Qualcomm's Dr. James Mault in a statement, "and we are seeing how UnitedHealthcare Motion helps people take charge of their health."

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