Apple may seek health insurer subsidies for iWatch

Apple could be looking to health insurance companies to help subsidize its rumored iWatch fitness bands in the same way that wireless carriers subsidize the cost of smartphones.

That speculation comes from Timothy Arcuri, an analyst with Cowen & Co. He raised the possibility on Friday in a research note that discussed possible product launches, including the iWatch, later this year from Apple.

“We continue to believe it is possible the product (iWatch) is backstopped by some sort of insurance subsidization model similar to the carrier subsidization model for iPhone,” he wrote.

Its pitch apparently would be that an Apple a day keeps the doctor away. In other words, if people wearing an Apple iWatch are more cognizant of steps taken, calories burned, blood pressure, heart rate and other biometric data, they will lead healthier lives and have less need for medical care.

Arcuri thinks Apple will introduce the wearable device in September to hit the holiday shopping season, based on his discussions with companies in the supply chain.

“We continue to feel this product will differentiate itself with existing wearable products primarily from a health perspective with a number of key innovations including noninvasive blood cell count and blood pressure and other more pedestrian features like heart rate,” Arcuri wrote. But he noted that the wearables market is “nascent and fraught with demand uncertainty.”

Component suppliers and contract manufacturers are gearing up to build 5 million to 10 million Apple wearable devices a quarter, Arcuri said. His forecast calls for Apple to sell about 18 million units in 2015 at an average selling price of $250.

The Apple iWatch would join an emerging category with products already on the market from Nike (NKE), Jawbone and Fitbit. Samsung entered the market on Friday with its Gear Fit bands, which retail for $199.99.

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