Urbanspoon Co-Founder Hates Insurance Shopping, Creates New Search Service

What’s a technology entrepreneur do when facing the head-slappingly opaque process of shopping for individual health insurance coverage? Get to work hacking together a solution.

That’s what gave rise to PickHealthInsurance, a new online search service developed by Urbanspoon co-founder Adam Doppelt.

PickHealthInsurance is a side project—Doppelt is hard at work on Dwellable, which helps people find vacation rentals. “If people love the app and traffic is through the roof, I could monetize it later. My skills are really more around product building, though,” he says via email.

The insurance-shopping that led to the project came about because Doppelt’s COBRA was nearing expiration, part of his transition back to being a full-time entrepreneur after working at IAC, which bought Urbanspoon in 2009. As he wrote on Hacker News, Doppelt nearly bought a family plan that would have included a $20,000 deductible for maternity coverage, something he discovered too late in the process.

“I figured I could build something better, that would offer the details up front. I wanted to start presenting rates immediately, even if they were approximate,” Doppelt says. “Why should it be so hard? I have the skills, I just needed the time.”

There’s a big player in the market already: Ehealthinsurance.com, which is actually licensed to market and sell insurance and has partnerships with lots of insurance providers. Doppelt says that in this sector, “all roads lead to ehealthinsurance. Every other site that claims to offer rates is just an affiliate. But their site is slow and dated, and the plans’ details are squirreled away in difficult to reach places.”

PickHealthInsurance is a much more slimmed-down site by comparison in this early release version. The front page allows shoppers to narrow plans down by age, ZIP code, whether it’s for a single person, couple, or family, and whether you use tobacco, with more detailed information on individual plans after it jumps to the results.

One funny note: I think all of the results in the test search I tried actually redirected me back to Ehealthinsurance.com if I wanted to purchase. Doppelt says he’s getting all of the health plan data by crawling the Web, not through any direct relationships with insurers (this was put together in a few weekends, after all).

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One response to “Urbanspoon Co-Founder Hates Insurance Shopping, Creates New Search Service”

  1. Mark says:

    Love the PickHealth site. Love the streamlined presentation of information. Don’t love that it’s just an “affiliate” site to eHealth, something Doppelt derides above about other sites claiming to offer rates.

    By contrast, InsureMonkey (http://www.insuremonkey.com) works with each carrier nationwide through an API like Orbitz works with the airlines. It offers real-time information on rates, benefit details, doctor networks and the like with an easy online application process or licensed agents who are ready to help with an application over the phone.

    Like Doppelt’s PickHealth, InsureMonkey was born of the painful process we go through of trying to find health insurance for ourselves and families. However, unlike “affiliate” sites, InsureMonkey never sells a person’s information. Ever.

    I’m a huge fan of UrbanSpoon and wish Doppelt the best with PickHealth and any other project he’s involved with. The more people trying to help right this wrong, the better.