UnitedHealthcare Group is expanding its employer health and wellness program that make use of mobile apps and wearables and rewards employees with cash credits for using them.

UnitedHealthcare and its digital health technology vendor, Qualcomm Life Inc., in March rolled out UnitedHealthcare Motion, a wellness program that provides employees with activity trackers at no additional charge and enables them to earn up to $1,500 per year by meeting certain goals for the number of steps they take each day or a related activity.

To test the concept, the commercial health insurer offered UnitedHealthcare Motion in 12 states and only to companies with 150 or fewer employees. Now UnitedHealthcare is expanding its employer wellness program to include all 40 states where the company provides coverage and is making it available to certain groups of employers including self-funded employers with five or more eligible employees and employers providing fully insured health plans with 101 or more employees.

UnitedHealthcare Motion also has been updated by UnitedHealthcare and Qualcomm to include a broader array of wearable devicesincluding Fitbit devicesthat can be integrated into Qualcomm Lifes 2net technology platform. This program is undergoing a big expansion and is ready for primetime, says Qualcomm Life chief medical officer James Mault.

UnitedHealthcare Motion program employers can give their employees a free wearable device or sell them a wearable device at a reduced price. Employees can then download the UnitedHealthcare Motion app to track health and fitness metrics such as daily steps, plan and update an ongoing fitness plan with defined goals and objectives, and qualify for up to $1,500 per employee or $3,000 for employee and spouse in cash credits that go into the employees health savings account.

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United Healthcare isnt releasing many details about how many employers and employees are thus far signed up for UnitedHealthcare Motion, but does say more than 100,000 people in the 12 pilot states have access to a UnitedHealthcare Motion connected device.

What an employer may pay to participate in the UnitedHealthcare Motion program is bundled into the employee benefits packages companies negotiate annually with United Healthcare for health insurance coverage, says a company spokesman. UnitedHealthcare isnt saying how much its spending to develop and implement UnitedHealthcare Motion but does say the program is included in the $2.9 billion the health insurer spends annually on technology and innovation, the spokesman says.

Combining mobile health technology such as apps and wearables with employee incentive programs for participation is catching on, and as many as 13 million workers will use wearables as part of an employee health and wellness program by 2018, says UnitedHealthcare.

“The growth of UnitedHealthcare Motion showcases the value of providing companies and their employees with personalized, connected health and wellness resources,” says UnitedHealthcare chief medical officer Dr. Richard Migliori. “Wearable technology can help encourage employees to walk each day and earn financial rewards at the same time, using secure technology that we believe is intuitive and convenient.”

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