Here's what it might look like if Apple designed healthcare benefits

Applying Apple's design principles to healthcare benefits.

The iPhone changed how we use our phones, the iPod changed how we listen to music, and the Apple Wallet changed how we pay for things. What if Apple could change how we use our healthcare benefits? 

Healthcare benefits stats

Here are some quick (depressing) stats about U.S. healthcare benefits: 

  • About half of health plan detractors feel unaware of all of their benefits.
  • In 2021, 44% of workers forfeited their FSA funds, with an average loss of $339.

Healthcare benefits are hard-earned funds that help account holders save on expenses and improve their overall health, but most people fail to understand and use them to their full potential.

Apple is the right company to change healthcare benefits.

Apple's well-positioned to create first-class healthcare benefits because of their:

  • Human-centered design. Humans use healthcare benefits, so they should be designed for humans to understand and use. Unfortunately, that's not currently the standard for healthcare benefits. The technology leader that replaced "user" with "human" for human interface design is the right thought leader to lead the industry in this change.
  • Understanding of human behavior. Apple already knows a lot about its customers' habits and needs through products like the Apple Watch and Apple Health. With its data, Apple could create more personalized benefit designs and products through insights-driven design.
  • Current and future plans in fintech. Apple laid the foundation for more fintech products with the Apple Wallet, and it recently announced the Apple Card would be integrating a savings account. Adding healthcare benefits would make the Apple Wallet even more powerful and effective.
  • Current and future plans in healthtech. Apple's already impacted the healthtech world with CareKit, HealthKit, and ResearchKit. And given their data on customer health behaviors, there are rumors about them wanting to offer health insurance soon. Offering healthcare benefits would enable Apple to expand its current healthtech footprint and lay an even stronger foundation for providing health insurance. 

We think Apple healthcare benefits might look like this.

If Apple designed healthcare benefits, here's what we'd expect to see.

Consumer benefit features

Mockup of Apple health savings account with benefit utilization rings for contributions, investment, and spending.
Benefit utilization rings that encourage account holders to maximize their HSA
  • Benefit utilization rings. Apple's exercise rings incentivize people to achieve their fitness goals. What if these same principles were used to incentivize benefit utilization? Contribute to your health savings account (HSA) today to maximize your tax-free contributions and complete your monthly benefit ring.
  • Benefit alerts at fingertips. Did the account holder recently purchase an item that was benefits-eligible? An Apple messaging alert system could inform users of eligible purchases with a request to reroute transactions through the appropriate benefit account.
  • Intuitive benefit education. Apple's design language rarely requires a how-to guide—their design is so intuitive that everyone just figures it out. The same idea should be applied to benefits, making them so easy to use that they effectively become invisible.

Benefit product features

fictional mockup of an intuitive health rewards program designed by Apple
Intuitive design and an integrated mobile wallet would promote user benefit utilization.
  • Personalized benefits. Would the account holder benefit most from a Gym and Fitness or a Healthy Eating benefit? Apple already knows existing customers' average heart rates and sleeping habits, so it's in a great position to answer these questions and design benefits that make the greatest impact.
  • Intuitive Health Rewards accounts. Health Reward accounts incentivize healthy behaviors, benefiting both consumers and their benefit providers. But most Health Reward programs have clunky and confusing benefit experiences, making reimbursement difficult. With Apple's intuitive design and integrated mobile wallet, Apple could design a Healthy Rewards account that actually works.

Fintech features

Virtual cards would enable Apple to give same-day healthcare funds access to account holders.
  • Same-day healthcare funds access (with Apple virtual cards). In contrast to physical debit cards, virtual cards don’t depend on the mail or have a negative environmental cost, and provide cardholders with more privacy and security. Most importantly, Apple virtual cards would eliminate barriers between users and their funds.
  • Direct spending from HSA investments. One of the benefits of an HSA is its ability to invest tax-free, but current HSA products require account holders to transfer their investment funds back to their HSA before withdrawing the funds for healthcare expenses. Apple could simplify this process with direct healthcare spending from HSA investing, eliminating the need for account holders to remember to sell investments to make cash available in their HSA to buy healthcare.
  • "Next best dollar healthcare spending." An integrated Apple Wallet with healthcare benefits could create a universal payment card, eliminating the need for account holders to carry multiple cards for healthcare benefits. After a card swipe for a healthcare purchase, Apple could automatically route it through the most appropriate benefit, healthcare claim, or the user's Apple Card.
  • "Next best dollar investing." As mentioned earlier, Apple just launched a bank account, and imagine if Apple also added HSA investing and 401k investing. With these investment products, Apple could design a product feature where Apple allocates user paycheck contributions intelligently across HSA, 401k, and other investment vehicles.

The industry impact of Apple healthcare benefits

The iPod changed the music industry, and the App Store created the mobile app development industry. When Apple ventures into other spaces, they usually leave a lasting impression. (Let's forget about the Apple USB Mouse for now.) Here's how Apple entering the healthcare benefits space could potentially change the benefit provider industry:

  1. Functionality over features. Currently, healthcare benefit platforms compete based on a list of features. "We have a mobile app!" But, like, is the app good? Do people use it? Apple has never built something to check something off a list, and Apple entering healthcare benefits would raise everyone's standards.
  2. Innovative benefits for 2022's workforce. From 2018 to 2021, the number of fully remote workers grew 4x larger, and these workers need benefits that reflect their new work environment (stipends for home office and internet reimbursement). Apple could leverage its experience with a remote workforce to design new benefit products that meet user needs in 2022. All other benefit providers would be forced to offer similar benefits to remain competitive.
Josh Hostetler

Josh leads content for First Dollar, a fintech company that builds infrastructure for health spending benefits. Before First Dollar, Josh led course creation at Aceable, taught First Grade, waited tables at Olive Garden, and wore many other hats. He misses the breadsticks.