On October 1, the state's health insurance marketplace, New York State of Health, will begin open enrollment for 2014, and Oscar, a new health insurance company, is making its debut through the exchange with a new approach to insurance coverage for New York City residents. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Oscar is the new kid on the health insurance block.
Founders Josh Kushner, Kevin Nazemi and Mario Schlosser are taking their entrepreneurial skills, developed in the tech industry, and applying them to healthcare.
"My colleague, Josh, opened up his bill from an insurer and looked at it and couldn’t make any sense of it. 'I don’t understand who my doctors are, don’t understand what the benefits are,' and that was the catalyst for coming in and saying, 'Let’s start from scratch,'" says Nazemi.
Oscar's plans will range from zero to $500 a month and is one of 17 carriers offered through the state's healthcare marketplace.
"One of the things we’re simply doing is we’re putting a translation layer almost around the whole health care system," says Schlosser.
When future customers log onto the website www.hioscar.com, their medical history will be laid out in a Facebook-like timeline.
Customers will also be able to access services through wireless devices.
"You can see your claims from years ago, you can see prescriptions that you may have to fill," says Schlosser.
Customers are told exactly how much each service will cost.
Through the use of technology, Oscar hopes to keep costs down, by offering up to three free doctor visits a year and free generic prescription drugs.
"You shouldn't be nickel and dimed," says Nazemi.
One of Oscar's banner services is its "tele-doc" feature, where anytime, day or night, a doctor will call a customer back within an hour.
"If you have the ability to call a doctor, the doctor can tell you what to do next. Everybody wins, because you don’t go to the emergency room when it’s not necessary, and you immediately have your concerns addressed," says Nazemi.
Come January, the company will be able to service 50,000 New Yorkers, but their challenges will be getting people to sign up, maintaining simplicity and securing the right balance of young, old, healthy and sick customers.
For now, what Oscar does have is $30 million in reserves and a healthy dose of optimism.
"We have yet to find people who raise their hand and smile with delight when you ask them about their existing health insurance experience," says Nazemi. "We think it's time for a new entrant to give it a try."
Many will be watching closely to see if they succeed.