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John Hancock rewards customers who eat healthy foods

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John Hancock is giving its customers a financial incentive to eat healthy.

Starting Wednesday,  those who hold certain life insurance policies with the financial services company will be able to earn discounts, cash back on groceries and dollars off their premiums in return for filling their grocery carts with fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods.

“It’s designed to recognize that nutrition, and particularly nutrition combined with exercise, is really the best recipe for living a long and healthy life," says Michael Doughty, president of John Hancock Insurance, who says they are the first life insurance company in the U.S. to give customers perks for choosing healthy foods.  “If we can play a role in helping our customers in doing that, it’s going to be good for them and good for us as a company."

The healthy foods initiative is an extension of the life insurer’s year-old Vitality program, in which some policyholders receive rewards for actions like working out, or heading to the doctor for an annual physical.

Those who hold or purchase Vitality policies can choose to participate in the new healthy foods segment. If they shop at Walmart, they will get a loyalty card that they can swipe at the register to receive 25% discounts on designated healthy foods. They will also be able to qualify for those same discounts, in the form of cash back, at 70 other grocery chains around the U.S. Ultimately, customers can get discounts or cash back of up to $50 a month, or $600 a year.

Policyholders also earn “vitality points" for eating better. When purchasing healthier foods — from flounder filet to Brussels sprouts — they’ll accumulate points like you might in a frequent-flier program. Based on how many points are chalked up in a year, policyholders can move from bronze up to platinum status. With each jump, policyholders earn dollars off their life insurance premiums of up to 15% annually.

The program is similar to workplace efforts that encourage employees to engage in healthy behaviors like quitting smoking or losing weight by offering such perks as discounted gym memberships or reduced contributions toward premiums.

But “in most of those cases the companies aren’t doing very much on diet ... even though it has more of an impact on poor health than smoking or poor fitness," says Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, which is working with John Hancock to provide  policyholders with tips and  information on healthy eating.

Cash and other incentives can be helpful in changing habits, he says. “You can’t just put out a national guideline," Mozaffarian says. “You have to do other things. ... Giving economic incentives works. Having people track what they eat, and giving them feedback works."

Doughty acknowledges that rewarding healthy living is also good for the life insurance business.

“It’s really three things that cause more than half the deaths in the U.S.," he says. “People smoking, people not eating nutritious diets and people not engaging in enough physical activity. If our customer base can get better in those three areas, they’ll live longer, which means we’re not going to have to pay out claims as quickly."

It also allows for a different approach to a sometimes uncomfortable topic.

“Life insurance has always been a difficult conversation to have with people," Doughty says. “Now you can have a conversation where you’re talking about living, about earning points, about engaging in healthy activities."

Already John Hancock says that it has seen a positive impact from its broader Vitality program, with those participants taking more than 9,200 steps per day on average — nearly twice the typical number of steps taken by an adult in the U.S.

After their first year in the HealthyFood program, policyholders will only be able to continue getting discounts at the register or cash back if they have attained gold or platinum status. But they will be able to accumulate the Vitality points that can shave the cost of their annual premium, and reap them and other rewards, indefinitely, John Hancock says.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2016/04/06/john-hancock-rewards-customers-who-eat-healthy-foods/82664260/







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