The Great Healthcare Experiment: Another Hat in the Ring

February 3, 2018

Colin Rogers, SVP & GM – Benefits Solutions

Creating access to quality, affordable healthcare has long been seen as the proverbial Gordian Knot. Solving that problem is what gets me out of bed every day.

The US spends more on healthcare per capita than any other country on the planet.  US. health care spending reached $3.3 trillion  — or $10,348 per person — in 2016. It’s a whopping 17.9% of our country’s Gross Domestic Product.

So, last week’s news that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan will be throwing their collective weight — and wallets — against this problem, is meaningful. It signals the ongoing potential for the private market to catalyze further change in healthcare.

Problem-Solving at the Nexus of Insurance Principles, Tech, and Distribution

They are the latest to take a crack at addressing the inefficiencies of U.S. healthcare, by focusing on the intersection of insurance principles, technology, and distribution.  

While this initiative has captured headlines and imaginations, it hasn’t been positioned as the answer. However, it’s part of a continuum and a powerful one at that. It’s an initiative Zenefits has been leaning into and helping lead for the past five years.

Amazon, Berkshire, and JPMorgan are tackling the problem from the top-down by aggregating their combined employee base of more than 1 million people to drive pricing leverage. By contrast, Zenefits has come at this from the bottom-up, aggregating demand across small and mid-sized businesses nationwide. Both efforts are ultimately aimed at creating competition within the industry to make insurance easier to find, and more efficient to use.

Experimentation in the Healthcare Market Now

The Amazon consortium is the latest entry in a growing collection of more affordable healthcare experiments. Sponsors ranging from the Federal Government to insurance carriers, technology vendors, and insurance brokers are pushing up against this problem. We are all trying to help people get broader access to healthcare by navigating part or all the complexities from the top of the funnel (the broadest swath of available insurance options) all the way down to the point of service in a doctor’s office.

Zenefits entered and disrupted the market with the first technology platform for small business to select the best healthcare options for their employees and automate the conventionally paper-based processes into a digital, consumer-grade experience. We provide the platform for brokers, the pipes to insurance companies, and a radically simple experience for individuals.

Today, more than 250,000 people use the Zenefits People Platform — many via our mobile app — to select their insurance programs. On average, it takes people 9 minutes to review options, make annual healthcare selections and enroll in insurance plans on Zenefits. The platform also manages HSA accounts, makes coverage adjustments for life events such as adding a partner or a child, and automatically syncs with payroll.

For everyone who is attacking this problem, we are all brothers and sisters in arms.

Obamacare was one tact in an experiment that created a streamlined backbone. Take the politics out of it, the current administration is running its own experiment focused on relaxing how risk is pooled. Those things are all valid.

It is not a political problem, but a math, tech and people problem. And it is exciting to see the active experimentation and vibrant ideas in play to tackle this big and vitally important issue.