Obamacare Has Made Way for Health Care Start-Ups
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) We're all weary of the stories about the flaws in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and the Obama administration is in full-on PR mode as a result. There are pros and cons, fans and detractors of Obamacare, but throughout the hullaballoo, an interesting phenomenon has emerged: startup companies that have stepped into the void to make the process of acquiring healthcare more seamless for consumers.
This is a real and relevant problem, as 15% of Americans are uninsured, approximately 2.2 million of them in New York alone. This causes a serious drain on the system; last year, uninsured people racked up a total of $42 billion in medical fees that never got paid, and the average U.S. family and its employers ended up paying an extra $1,017 in health care premiums to compensate .
From the beginning, the whole point of the Affordable Care Act has been to stem the tide of health care costs, but about seven in ten uninsured adults still don't understand how the ACA makes coverage more affordable, and only 29% know that the law might provide them with financial help, according to a 2014 study. For that reason, many of these new startups are tackling the educational component of the new law and by making it easier to sign up for a plan.
Here are some of the upstarts making a mark:
Founded by Sally Poblete, a former health insurance exec, after her own harrowing experience trying to navigate her medical bills following a difficult pregnancy, Wellthie services big insurance companies like EmblemHealth by providing tools to help them explain their plans (and the Affordable Care Act) to customers in real-speak. At present, Wellthie's signature tool is the Affordable Care Advisor, which helps consumers figure out which plans are best for them and calculates what kinds of subsidies they qualify for.
How it makes its mark: Wellthie is creating change from the inside out by helping insurance companies to explain their ACA plansand consumers' benefitsbetter. Although the national and state health exchanges also allow consumers to browse plans and see how much they can receive in financial assistance, Wellthie lets users to see their options before inputting a ton of complex data and their Social Security number.
It's rare for the tech startup world to be so abuzz for a company in such a traditional industryhealth insurance. But Oscar is just that darling, which has been valued at roughly $340 million and has raised more than $75 million in funding. Currently, Oscar only serves areas in New York, but it's nonetheless created waves.
How it makes its mark: The company is actually focused on consumers, which is actually pretty revolutionary for a health insurer. Oscar uses technology to make it easier to find doctors, search for your symptoms in natural language and receive free generic drugs and some free primary care appointments.