In four years David Varvel went from no health insurance, to full coverage via the Japanese government, to purchasing a high deductible plan, and then full coverage through an employer. He said having to switch insurance that often was “painful.” But now the founder of Tiny Cat Loans, a community lending platform, said he and his family have settled on HackerCare: a healthcare startup for startups that is working to hack healthcare.
HackerCare launched in beta in early February, and counts about a dozen members. The company signs up members for a health plan with the help of an insurance broker, and for an additional $50 a year, provides other services from health startups to supplement insurance with the aim of lowering costs.
“HackerCare is for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. Also, it’s a lot easier to communicate with a smaller more agile company like HackerCare than a massive hulk like Kaiser or Blue Cross,” Varvel told TechCrunch. “It’s a great way for me to get coverage while getting my startup off the ground.”
Based in Sacramento, HackerCare is focusing on signing up people in Silicon Valley — although later this year the plan is to expand coast-to-coast, said CEO Gina Lujan. The bootstrapped company is partnering with health startups to offer additional services for members, allowing them to launch in beta with a real customer pool, and giving HackerCare members services that save them money.
“We want to hack that health plan with additional services,” Lujan said.
Thus far, 1.6 million Californians have either signed up for a plan or enrolled in state Medi-Cal through Covered California; of those, 728,410 signed up for their own plans.
Covered California, the state’s insurance exchange, allows users to search for plans, depending on their ZIP code and income. There are plans available for less than $200, as well as others that are double or triple that price. Spokeswoman Sarah Sol told TechCrunch that Covered California is the best place to get information about receiving federal assistance, counseling or any official insurance information.
Some of the services HackerCare is set to provide members includes TelaDoc, allowing members to skip on a deductible to see a doctor and Skype with one, and vision services with VSP Global. In the future Lujan said child services, help with medical bills, wellness, and pharmacy benefits may also be included.
These services come from medtech startups, which can float new products to HackerCare members in beta in order to innovate more quickly, she said.
“HackerCare members may prove to be the perfect test bed to try and fail fast with some new services and delivery methods that VSP is developing through our innovation lab, The Shop,” said Jay Sales, innovation strategist at VSP Global, a HackerCare sponsor. “By working with them, hopefully we can come up with some interesting experiences that can transfer to all our members.”
Sales noted that a large wave of health innovation is happening in the startup world now, and HackerCare is poised to help those startups take their work to the next level.
In the coming months Lujan said HackerCare plans to create a deductible pool that will allow members to receive up to 80 percent deductible coverage in the case of a catastrophic event. Even further down the line, in a few years, Lujan said the plan is that HackerCare has several thousand members and can write its own insurance plan that better caters to members both health-wise, and cost-wise.
For a budding entrepreneur like Varvel, being on the cutting edge of health technology is a great way to keep his family healthy. He said he is now less worried about the future of his healthcare, and can focus more on the future of his startup — something he said will help HackerCare become a big hit.
“If HackerCare can make healthcare 10 percent less painful for entrepreneurs, they’ll do great,” Varvel said.