A Hip Cure for Health Care
By Siri Schubert

(Business 2.0) – Thinking about health insurance is about as much fun as a root canal--unless you're Sir Richard Branson. After livening up air travel and mobile phones, the Virgin Group founder and British billionaire wants to infuse health insurance with his brand of cool. In May, Virgin partnered with insurance provider Humana, based in Louisville, Ky., to launch a new venture called Virgin Life Care in early 2006. Using low premiums and frequent-flier-like rewards, the company hopes to make health care more appealing to the 45 million uninsured Americans.

Virgin Life will install "health zones" in gyms, where members collect points for workouts that can be used to lower premiums and earn discounts on travel, DVDs, or sneakers. "We'll come up with new features to get people to play again," says Humana's chief innovation officer, Jonathan Lord. The plans will debut in Tampa, Fla., and San Antonio before rolling out nationwide. Meanwhile, other firms are also trying to make health care fun. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minnesota and HealthPartners have started discounts to local gyms, while Blue Cross of California's Tonik offers savings on massages and even Club Med trips. Now that's a premium. -- SIRI SCHUBERT