Dallas’ Take Command Health Wants to Make Health Plan Shopping Easier

Dallas—Now that we’ve made it through Election Day, let’s brace ourselves for Benefits Enrollment season.

This month, many of us will dive into the sometimes difficult-to-understand world of co-payments, premiums, prescription drug plans, and the like as we renew our company-sponsored benefits package. For Americans who work for themselves, the purchasing a healthcare plan can be more frustrating than usual. Jack Hooper, founder of the health IT startup Take Command Health, wants to make this process easier.

“People are confused by their insurance and don’t really understand how to get what they need,” he says.

Certainly that uncertainty has now extended beyond individuals in the Gig Economy to include companies like Take Command Health themselves. Entrepreneurs like Hooper now must wait to see what President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign vows to dismantle the Affordable Care Act means for their customers and markets.

In the meantime, Hooper says Dallas-based Take Command Health continues to serve its customers, relying on artificial intelligence technology to provide users with a more customized healthcare plan at the best possible price. The site first asks a user to plug in basic information like age and zip code. Then Take Command asks you about your doctor preferences, chronic conditions, and what sorts of medicines you take routinely. The startup takes this information and crunches that with a proprietary database made up of more than 30 million claim records.

“If you’re a 40-year-old male with asthma, we look at other 40-year-old males with asthma to see on average how many doctor visits they had, what equipment they used, etc.,” Hooper says.

That data is then analyzed by a prescription drug database developed by Take Command Health and VeriCred, a New York health data services company. (Vericred also helped the startup build a database that uses doctor licenses to connect them to individual healthcare plans at the network level.)

After the data analysis, the site gives users a number of plans that it says best match [individual] needs. “We want to walk people through the process,” Hooper says. “Health insurance is still expensive; we want to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.”

Typically, healthcare consumers would go through the government health exchange or hire independent brokers to connect them to plans. But Hooper says neither of those options can provide the number of options that Take Command Health can.

“Traditional broker models focus on bigger businesses; they want to get 1,000 lives all at once,” Hooper says. “It’s not worth it to do it for individuals. Our data science is helping people. It’s not just looking at 50 plans but giving them direction of where they might need to go.”

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, entrepreneurs like Hooper have seen an opportunity in using technology to help people navigate new territory. It’s a target rich environment. Before the ACA, there were about 10 million people who enrolled in individual plans. Prior to Tuesday, that market was expected to grow to 35 million by 2020, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office.

Stride Health in San Francisco is another company offering a personalized seek-and-find website for individuals to find healthcare insurance. Investors include NEA, RockHealth, and Venrock.

“There are so many plans, so many variables, the doctor networks are changing constantly, so that without data tools, a well-intentioned broker can’t help clients in the way they need to,” Hooper says.

With the results of the presidential election, founders like Hooper are starting to try to assess what this means for their companies and their markets. “For us, our main focus is just remaining the consumer’s ally. There are almost certainly going to be some changes now (there would have been with Hillary, too) and with changes comes confusion and angst,” Hooper says. “Our goal as a business is to remain nimble and flexible so that we can thrive in whatever the new market looks like and to focus on helping our clients get the most out of their health dollars, no matter the system.”

Take Command Health, which takes a 3 percent to 5 percent cut of the monthly premium, got its start in Texas but has recently rolled out its services to residents in Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona. They’ve made changes along the way, Hooper says. Take Command Health raised $1 million from family offices last summer, and has used the funding to expand its footprint as well as make changes to its website.

“The first version of the site looked like a giant Excel calculation; the approach confused more than it helped,” he says. “We then did a step-by-step ‘Turbo Tax’-like process.”

The idea behind Take Command Health came when Hooper, at the Wharton business school and insured through the university, found out his wife was having twins and couldn’t get a satisfactory idea of how the new family additions would affect their healthcare coverage.

Since its founding two years ago, Hooper says the startup has had an 80 percent customer return rate. “You never get 100 percent; people move, get married,” he says. “But the national average for brokers was just over 50 percent so I believe we really deliver a great experience for our customers.”

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