As someone who rarely visits a doctor, health insurance is often a pain. I pay money every month for something I rarely use and when I do want to use my health insurance, it’s often been a painful experience of automated options and constantly being rerouted.
A few months ago I wrote about Oscar Heath, a new health insurance company in California. As I was researching the company, I instantly became intrigued. As someone who is an early adopter and tech enthusiast, the company’s tech oriented approach to health insurance instantly appealed to me. Therefore, when it was time for me to enroll for health insurance, I decided to choose Oscar Health as an alternative to my existing insurance company.
During my first thirty days with Oscar, I’ve had more interaction with my health insurance than I had all last year. This isn’t because I’m sick, but rather the interactions have been so enjoyable, that I haven’t avoided my health insurance. I’m much more open to taking care of myself.
One of the big competitive advantages Oscar Health touts over its competition is their user experience. The team behind Oscar has technology backgrounds. Therefore, they designed the web and mobile user experiences much like you would with a consumer app.
The interface is clean and slick. But more importantly, it makes navigating the site enjoyable. It’s intuitive and minimal design walks you through the site quickly.
For example, when you’re researching for your plan, instead of looking at a daunting page of drop downs and input boxes, Oscar just starts you out with one field. There is nothing else on the page to distract you. As you fill out one field, another one appears until they have sufficient information for a quote.
One thing I wrote about when researching Oscar was that they offer plans that have free primary care physician visits, free telemedicine, free generic drugs, and free lab tests. With all these “free” features, surely the price of these plans were going to be much higher than other insurance plans? In my case, not quite.
I started my search on the Covered California site, to see if I was eligible for any government subsidies. I entered my expected income and saw a list of recommended insurance plans. Everything was priced similarly. When I compared to the price of Oscar’s plans, nothing was dramatically cheaper. When I accounted for the absence of co-pays, I would be saving money.
Misfit Fitness Incentive
One of my favorite aspects of Oscar is its activity incentive program. It’s no secret that health insurance companies make their money from people who pay monthly premiums, but don’t need much care. Who doesn’t need care? Healthy people.
That’s why Oscar teamed up with fitness tracker, Misfit. Every Oscar Health member is eligible for a new Misfit tracker. You can sync the tracker with the Oscar app to count your daily steps. Everyday you hit your daily goal, Oscar pays you $1. You can redeem this in the form of an Amazon gift card, in $20 increments. Members are eligible for a total of $100 a year. Since becoming a member, I’ve only missed my daily goal of 10,000 steps once.
One of Oscar’s features is 24/7 access to telemedicine. I had never used telemedicine before, but I’ve been aware of its increasing popularity. The premise of telemedicine is quite appealing, since one part of seeing a doctor I hate is how long it takes. When you have a small ailment that will take 5 minutes with the doctor, but you have to spend 2-3 hours of your day to go to the doctor, wait, and then return home, it hardly feels worth it.
When I tried out telemedicine, it was surprising how quickly the entire process was. I put in a request via the Oscar app. Within a few minutes a doctor called me. I described my symptoms and in two minutes he sent a prescription to my pharmacy. Within 30 minutes I had medicine. The fastest medical experience of my life.
No one likes calling their insurance company. It usually entails a series of automated touchtone menus followed by extensive wait times. Actually talking to someone might take you 30 minutes. Not with Oscar.
When I first tried Oscar’s telemedicine feature, there was a technical difficulty. I waited twenty minutes and tried again, but I received the same error. I wasn’t sure if it was something with my device, or on Oscar’s end. I called their 1800 number and was connected with someone in moments. This gentleman helped sort out my issue, which turned out to be on their end. He even sent me a list of doctors in my area. It was by far my best experience with an insurance company over the phone.
My Only Complaint
The one drawback with Oscar Health is its current network of doctors. The list of doctors I was given seemed pretty long, but it was really only three medical groups. Two thirds of the list were all part of the same medical group and location. Since I didn’t have a primary physician that I had to keep going to, it wasn’t difficult for me to change doctors. But if you have a doctor you like, there is a good chance she doesn’t take Oscar…yet.
This is the first year Oscar has been around in California, so it’s only natural they don’t have an extensive network of doctors yet. I expect that to change in the new few years. But I can see how that’s a big inconvenience for other people (to be fair, I don’t know what choices people have in other zip codes, perhaps there are more).
Simply put, I love Oscar Health. Everything about my experience has been fantastic. Even down to the small things, like the card and the welcome package, which are higher quality and better designed than any other insurance card I’ve had. In my quest to be healthier, it’s a good feeling to not be afraid of my health insurance company. It’s definitely worth a look if you need health insurance or next year during re-enrollment.