National

Insurers devise new steps to slash fees and promote wellness in rapidly graying Japan

Kyodo

Walking 8,000 steps a day or eating healthy food may now save you money as some Japanese insurers move to sell policies that offer premium discounts or refunds to those living healthily.

These types of insurance policies may cut Japan’s medical and nursing care costs, which have been growing due to its increasingly graying society.

Earlier this month, Tokyo-based Neo First Life Insurance Co. launched a new medical policy that pays lump-sum allowances when the insured is admitted to a hospital for such lifestyle-related diseases as cancer and heart disease.

But what is unique about the product is that its premiums are determined in line with the insured’s “health age,” which is calculated by the company based on medical checkup results — instead of one’s actual age.

To calculate the so-called health age of a prospective client, Neo First Life will use data on 1.6 million people stockpiled by the Japan Medical Data Center, a private company that specializes in medical data analysis.

People confirmed to be healthier than average for their age are offered discounts on their premiums, said Neo First Life Insurance, a group firm of Dai-ichi Life Holdings Inc.

For example, the monthly premium for a certain type of insurance policy promising a lump-sum payment of ¥1 million for designated diseases is ¥2,722 ($24) for people regarded as having a health age of 50, compared with ¥4,430 for those regarded as 60, notwithstanding their actual age.

The premiums will be revised every three years depending on the health status of the insured, which is updated via checkups conducted before the fourth year starts.

Another insurance product offered by Tokio Marine & Nichido Life Insurance Co. will give policyholders refunds depending on the number of steps they take each day. The policies went on sale in the Tokyo metropolitan area in August.

Subscribers need to wear a monitoring device linked to the company via a smartphone app to measure their daily step count. They are entitled to refunds of up to 10 percent if they average over 8,000 steps a day for two years.

The product, developed jointly with major wireless internet provider NTT Docomo Inc., is set to be launched in other parts of Japan next month. Users of other carriers can also sign up for the policy.

A policy developed by Sompo Holdings Inc. and Aiaru Syogakutankihoken Corp. is designed to support the rehabilitation efforts of patients who require assistance with nursing care. The product was launched in September for residents at welfare facilities run by the Sompo Holdings group.

To qualify, one must be recognized as needing daily assistance under the government’s nursing care insurance system.

If their condition, divided into five categories according to degree of assistance required, improves over a certain period, they will receive a celebratory allowance, the companies said, adding that the insurance may eventually be sold to residents of facilities run by other groups.

In addition, Sumitomo Life Insurance Co. has tied up with Discovery Ltd., an international financial services operator based in South Africa, and plans to introduce — possibly next summer — a new life or medical insurance policy that can be discounted if the insured takes steps toward leading a healthier life.

“The strength of this policy is that we will be able to utilize data that have been collected by Discovery from all around the world,” an official of Sumitomo Life Insurance said.

The company will collect lifestyle data on the insured, including diet and fitness habits, and the premiums will be reviewed each year, with discounts available to policyholders recognized as adopting healthy lifestyles.

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