Healthful life insurance gets a push

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John Hancock Insurance in April 2015 launched life-insurance policies that promise lower rates to people who maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, consumers should note the fine print, insurance experts say.

John Hancock’s new policies allow holders to collect “Vitality Points” when they achieve goals, such as getting an annual health screening or regular exercise. Policyholders even will get a free fitness tracker to help track their progress.

John Hancock says a 45-year-old couple of average health could save at least $25,000 in premiums over 40 years on two $500,000 Vitality life-insurance policies.

However, Bob Barney, who operates Term4Sale.com, which compares insurance prices, says the product has “a big, fat pothole in it.” He notes that if you buy the policy and don’t achieve the goals necessary to qualify for the credit, the cost of your premiums would rise.

John Hancock spokesperson Melissa Simon Berczuk concedes that the premiums could increase, although she says consumers benefit from premium savings in the initial year of the policy—as much as 10 percent—and premiums can decrease if you achieve all goals. Consumers can opt out of the Vitality portion of their policy at any time.

According to trade group Limra, 44 percent of U.S. households have individual life-insurance policies—a 50-year low. Experts say the John Hancock policies are an attempt to reinvigorate life-insurance sales.

John Hancock isn’t the first insurer to try such a program, but no company has gone to the same extent in the United States. If the program is a success, other companies might follow suit, experts say.