COVID-19 Health, Wellness & Biotech Insurance tech Job market Venture

A Competitive Labor Market Drives Opportunities For Employee Health Care Challengers

Illustration of piggy bank with stethoscope insides.

By Ryan Simonetti

Business leaders are increasingly searching for innovative services and benefits designed to help workers prioritize their well-being, while at the same time lowering overhead and employee expenses.

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This is one reason health benefit questions today are now extremely nuanced, with employees asking: Will my employer support my full range of health and wellness needs? Will I be able to reliably access the support and services I need when I need them? Which companies are truly committed to the well-being of their employees, rather than simply checking boxes with off-the-shelf coverage?

As both a business owner and an investor in the digital health sector, I believe this shift is being fueled by three factors. First, employers seeking a return to the office and making the necessary changes to make workers feel safe and comfortable; second, health care technology startups offering new models and services for employee health care; and finally, health care investors who are increasingly directing capital to the employer-led sector, which has the potential to reach 158 million lives.

Benefits that truly enhance employee health and well-being

Ryan Simonetti, CEO and co-founder of Convene

With 50 percent of U.S. policyholders and their dependents accessing health insurance through employers, it’s no surprise the employee benefits market raised $541 million in the first half of 2021 alone. Digital health startups are meeting these demands by helping employers take an active role in providing their workforce with access to care, including onsite medical clinics and offering mobile-first primary care.

For example, my company, Convene, has partnered with Eden Health, which uses a hybrid health care model to deliver a seamless experience between the virtual “front door” of telehealth and in-person medical care. In addition to the comprehensive primary care, mental care and wellness services provided, Eden has also played an important part in developing Convene’s COVID-19 strategy. Among the guidelines we’re following to keep our employees and visitors safe, proof of vaccination is required for those entering any of our 23 locations across five major cities.

Investing in a more open, independent and transparent health insurance model

Health care investments are booming, due in large part to digital transformation and health tech startups. At the same time, the U.S. spends $38 trillion on health care. This amount is far more than other countries and makes employers and consumers bear the brunt of these costs. As an investor, I’m interested in disruptors who offer a better solution to the pervasive problems facing the nation’s health care system.

One of the biggest challenges I see is the cost risk most employers are taking on. Instead of outsourcing to large insurance companies such as Oxford, Cigna or Blue Cross Blue Shield, self-insured employers are choosing from a new wave of modern health plans that meet the specific needs of their workforce with specialty providers and incentives that can serve all employees and their dependents. Currently 80 percent of companies with 500 or more employees operate their own insurance plans.

For example, Flume Health, a technology-enabled health plan administrator I’m an early investor in, is focused on helping to design and manage these plans better. The company saw an opportunity to eliminate costly and time-consuming complexities by taking on the role of insurance companies to adjudicate claims, store sensitive data and initiate all payments.

By continuing to drive transformation in the way American companies care for their workforce, we can achieve a happier, healthier and more productive nation.

Ryan Simonetti is the CEO and co-founder of Convene, the premium work experience platform with 23 meeting, event and workplace locations—including virtual and hybrid solutions. His unique expertise in real estate acquisitions, development and structured finance has helped position Convene as a pioneer in the commercial real estate and hospitality industries.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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