Oscar aims to simplify health insurance

Oscar aims to simplify health insurance
January 05 01:00 2016

An upstart New York-based health plan is seeking a share of Orange County’s Obamacare market by using sophisticated technology designed to simplify how consumers decipher costs and seek care.

Last fall, health insurance company Oscar began selling individual policies here and in parts of Los Angeles County through Covered California, the state’s exchange. The open enrollment deadline for 2016 is Jan. 31.

Oscar’s plans are exclusive provider organizations, which don’t require referrals from a primary care doctor but cover only in-network care. In Orange County, Oscar’s contracted providers include St. Joseph Hoag Health.

Industry observers say Oscar’s strengths include ease of use, appeal to young adults and a solid network with large hospitals. For instance, around-the-clock phone consultations with a doctor are free and can be requested with the push of a button on the mobile app.

But they also note that the fledgling company, funded by venture capital, must overcome lack of name recognition and track record as well as higher premiums than some competitors in Southern California’s crowded market.

For an unsubsidized plan for a 35-year-old in Orange County, the least expensive bronze plans in the market range from $200 to $252 per month, with Oscar at $244. For the most expensive platinum plans, premiums range from $357 to $471, with Oscar costing $401.

“Their price is an issue because a lot of Covered California people are price-conscious,” said George Balteria, chief executive of Quote Selection Insurance Services based in Santa Ana. “Their big push is technology. For the Uber-riding, DoorDash crowd, they do have some appeal and bring something new to the marketplace.”

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