Aviva 'wellness' rider provides life insurance discounts for healthy lifestyle

A history of good health can help you qualify for low life insurance quotes when you apply for coverage, but Aviva promises future rewards if you remain healthy.

The life insurance company offers the opportunity to earn discounts through its Wellness for Life program, an optional rider available on its universal life and indexed universal life products.

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The concept is similar to saving on car insurance by being a safe driver, or saving on your health plan at work by participating in a company wellness program.

If you choose the rider, you pay a one-time $100 fee and qualify for premium discounts or greater cash accumulation through the life of the policy by maintaining a healthy weight and having a physical examination at least every other year.

No need to start marathon training

You don't have to be a contestant on "The Biggest Loser" TV show to qualify. The required weight range is wide, and it's based partly on how much you weigh when you sign up. A 50-year-old, 5-foot-9-inch woman who weighs 200 pounds, for instance, would have to stay within a range of 129 to 220 pounds.

wellness rider"It's not a program where we're trying to attract the healthiest people to buy our life insurance policies," says Rhonda Elming, an Aviva senior vice president of product management. "We don't want people to think this is just for marathon runners."

Regardless of whether you qualify for discounts, you also get access to health resources from the Mayo Clinic.  Those resources include an online health assessment, a health and wellness website with personalized tracking tools, and a 24-hour toll-free hotline staffed by registered nurses.

Aviva doesn't have access to any health information you submit for the Mayo Clinic health assessment or nurse telephone line, nor does it see records from your physicals. The only information it asks for is your certified weight from a doctor every two years.

How much can you save on life insurance?

The discounts vary by policy, but generally the rider can pay for itself after a few years. You can use the discounts to reduce premiums or boost your policy's cash value, Elming says.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive, both from distributors of the product and from customers," she says.

The relationship with a renowned health provider like the Mayo Clinic is important.

"We're able to offer something of value to clients that they may not have expected from a life insurance company," says Dana Dennis, Aviva's manager of wellness products.

Aviva, which also offers the Mayo Clinic nurse line and Mayo Clinic newsletter to its annuity customers, is looking at extending the Wellness for Life program to other products, such as term life, Elming says.

It's too early to say how participation could impact mortality rates, but that's something the life insurance company will track. Aviva, which began the program in 2007, says no other company offers anything quite like it.

Industry-wide trend

The Aviva program  is part of a larger industry trend of monitoring customer behavior and providing discounts for healthy habits, says Clark Troy, research director at Aite Group, LLC, a Boston-based research and consulting firm.

"I don't think this is going to be a supernova that reorders the way life insurance products are offered in the near term, but I do think it is a trend we will see emerge," he says. "It's a great marketing tool and a great way to go."

He says he wouldn't be surprised to see life insurance companies someday offering discounts based on more complex data, such as cholesterol levels. Gearing up to offer such programs isn't simple. Systems must be developed to gather and keep track of data, Troy says.

"The benefits need to be clear enough for companies to feel comfortable to moving forward," he says.

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