The companies aren’t necessarily doing all this just to improve their bottom line. (Illustration: Stefania Infante)
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The Insurers That Pay You for Time Spent Outside

A growing number of insurance carriers are encouraging us via cold, hard cash to get after it in nature

Insurance providers offer all kinds of incentives to get us to make better choices. Anyone on an employee medical plan has gotten used to prods from HR to take advantage of gym discounts or earn a goodie bag by getting an annual checkup.

But more recently, a handful of health companies have begun investing in efforts to get us to spend more time outdoors. Kaiser Permanente, based in Northern California, has been helping to upgrade parks and improve parks access on the West Coast, particularly in low-income areas. Since 2015, the company has spent more than $7 million on 25 local park and open-space projects in Northern California alone, building new playgrounds and a fitness court, launching a mobile van that supports urban gardening and farming in the city of San Francisco, and funding programs that introduce people to parks and train park staff.

In 2018, the Kentucky-based insurer Humana partnered with the Timucuan Parks Foundation in Jacksonville, Florida, on a program that rewards people who spend time outside: by logging into the company’s Go365 app while visiting any of 22 participating Timucuan parks, users can earn rewards like gift cards, clothing, and fitness devices.

According to Peter Kongstvedt, a senior health-policy faculty member at George Mason University and author of several textbooks on managed care, the companies aren’t necessarily doing all this just to improve their bottom line. “Does it save money for them? It hasn’t really been shown that it does yet,” he says. “But it’s better to have healthier members. And as hard as it may be to believe, they do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Filed To: NatureScienceWellnessHealth and Beauty
Lead Illustration: Stefania Infante
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