The move to health insurance exchanges and the ensuing competition among health insurers means more choices for consumers. That’s a good thing, but according to HealthPocket, consumers are often lost when it comes to going about making those important decisions.
HealthPocket is one of several companies catalyzed by health insurance reform, joining others aiming to provide ways for doctors to be more price transparent, and to help healthcare shoppers find the most affordable care. Insurance providers like UnitedHealth have also rolled out price transparency tools.
What’s different about HealthPocket, according to the company’s head of consumer outreach Steve Zaleznick, is that it takes an objective approach. “We’re not representing a carrier, and we’re not selling anything — that’s a fundamental difference,” he said.
Eventually, the company will support itself through advertising on the site. But for now, he said, the team is focused on creating the best customer experience possible.
“There’s a lot of evidence that people who are going through a shopping experience in health insurance are having trouble making the best choice,” Zaleznick said.
The site enables people to search for, compare and rank health plans for individuals, Medicare, Medicaid and small businesses. Users looking for individual plans only have to enter their zip codes to get a listing of nearby health plans, although Zaleznick noted that entering additional information about age, smoking habits, etc., will generate better results.
Like Kayak, the site doesn’t actually broker transactions — it directs users who click “select this plan” to representatives from that plan. Zaleznick said the site collects pricing and benefits from “government and commercial sources.” A search in my area (Cleveland) turned up more than 150 plans from providers including Anthem BlueCross Blue Shield, Humana and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Ohio.
HealthPocket was founded earlier this year by former eHealthInsurance senior executives Bruce Telkammp and Sheldon Wang, who were later joined by Zaleznick, the founder and former CEO of AARP Services Inc., the AARP subsidiary that manages benefits for members. They raised a $2 million series A from Lightspeed Venture Partners in August.
Over the next several months, the company will focus its efforts on adding information and tools that will allow people to do better searches and help them make better decisions.
“By our calculations, by this time next year, pretty close to half of the population will have their own decision to make about health insurance,” Zaleznick said. “Those changes are clearly going to make people more responsible for that decision, and we absolutely believe that we can use technology to help.”