The trend is to reward policyholders with “healthy” lifestyles. Will it catch on in Luxembourg? Photo: Shutterstock

The trend is to reward policyholders with “healthy” lifestyles. Will it catch on in Luxembourg? Photo: Shutterstock

Will--should--the cost of supplementary health insurance be linked to your lifestyle? (The way car insurance premiums change with your driving record?) In Luxembourg, some see big potential here--and others not.

“Generali Vitality,” an incentive programme run by insurer Generali, is probably the most conspicuous programme of its type in Europe. Participants are rewarded for practicing healthy behaviour and sharing information. Launched in 1997 in South Africa, the programme--according to its website--now claims some 10m members worldwide.

The firm has also positioned the programme within the digital transformation of the insurance industry, with apps that track and assess your health metrics via smartphones and wearable tech. Based on what these devices record, you will receive tailored offers. Ultimately, users with healthier lifestyles--“healthier” in the company’s definition, of course--are rewarded.

“Clearly, this is only the first step,” says Martin Eling, director of the Institute of Insurance Economics at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, talking about this trend. Eling expects that supplementary health insurance will increasingly resemble car insurance, where people are charged more if they engage in risky behaviour or have had accidents in the past. Allianz has gone hard in this direction in France with its “connected driving” product, a device that monitors your driving and, accordingly, offers premium reductions.

“Although it may be criticised, I believe that young people in good health are interested, especially if they are technophiles,” says Eling of this movement in health insurance.

In Luxembourg, this view is shared by , CEO of the mutual insurance provider Caisse médico-complémentaire mutualiste (CMCM). “Not just for young people in good health,” Secci adds. “There are more and more people who are aware of their health and wear a watch that measures medical metrics. The comfort of feeling better protected, combined with technology, is creating a market with huge potential for incentive programmes in Luxembourg.”

Local potential

Does this mean that one day, beyond incentives, the price of supplementary health insurance could be based on our individual behaviour? “With commercial insurers, I can easily imagine it,” says Secci. “With mutual insurers like CMCM, certainly not: we cover everyone regardless of their state of health--we don’t exclude any risk. At most, there will be small favours linked to incentive programmes.”

The CEO of CMCM is not aware of any incentive programmes in Luxembourg that go as far as Generali Vitality. “It has to be said that, compared with our neighbours, our generous social system leaves less room for supplementary health insurance. In the area of prevention, there are a huge number of screenings planned, for example for colorectal cancer from the age of 50-60.”

“Anything that can encourage a healthier lifestyle is good for society,” says Secci, though he also warns of myopic takes: “Beware of abuse--let’s not forget that some people have a natural predisposition to certain illnesses.”

Local limitations

Meanwhile, --managing director of the Luxembourg Association of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies (Aca)--believes that the potential is limited. He points out that the industry has little room for manoeuvre when it comes to offering reimbursements over and above those given by the national health insurance. The leeway that does exist is mostly for dental work and eyeglasses.

More generally, Hengen also says that the bonus-malus system currently on the rise will meet its limit in Luxembourg: “The main principle of private insurance is that pricing must be based on actuarial and statistical elements. When an insurer wants to increase its health premiums, it has to justify this with a well-founded technical dossier.”

And the managing director senses strong resistance to the malus half of that equation. “Nobody wants to hear about [penalties],” he says. “The discussion is tending more towards banning them, as shown by the introduction in Luxembourg--and in other European countries--of the right, for people cured of cancer and certain other illnesses, to have those parts of their past forgotten.”

This article in Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.