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Health insurer Aetna to offer customer & employee discounts on Apple Watch

Aetna will be giving both its workers and some customers discounts on the Apple Watch, the U.S. health insurance giant said on Tuesday in a joint announcement with Apple.

The company's own workforce of nearly 50,000 people will be eligible to get Watches for free. Bloomberg reported that businesses contracting with Aetna will have to decide on their own whether to adopt the wearable, and if so, how it'll be subsidized.

To this Aetna added that it's currently developing apps for Apple products that will serve a number of purposes, from reminding people to take medicines through ordering refills, checking insurance benefits, and paying bills via the Wallet app. It's not clear if that will include Apple Pay, but in any case, the new apps should be ready sometime in 2017.

Apple is likely to benefit not just from immediate sales but further tying people into its ecosystem, possible sales to other insurers, and carving out a bigger niche in the corporate fitness tracker market.

That space has so far been controlled by Fitbit, which for three years has been selling trackers to businesses wanting to cut down on insurance costs by encouraging more exercise. Aetna in fact claimed that it's the first major U.S. healthcare firm to subsidize most or all of the Watch's cost.

Apple just recently launched the Series 2, an upgrade of the Watch with waterproofing and built-in GPS. Series 1 models are also available, simply upgrading the original Watch with a faster processor.