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Q&A with CEO, Jeff Smedsrud

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Q&A with CEO, Jeff Smedsrud

Colleen McGuire

Updated: March 22, 2017    Published: October 27, 2014

What is

We are a technology and data-driven company enabling better ways for consumers to shop for health care online – starting with insurance. The company was started in 2006 – before national health care reform – and has continued to evolve its service offerings.

What is it about health insurance that has made you dedicate your career to the industry?

We have had a family farm since 1881. Twice, it was nearly lost because of medical incidents, and both times there was not adequate health insurance. That was years ago. Since then, I’ve thought helping people get health insurance with a good thing to do, and I built my businesses around healthcare.

Tell us about your time founding the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans (NASCHIP).

Starting in my 20s, I began testifying before state legislators trying to get programs approved that would guarantee access to insurance, even for those with pre-existing medical conditions. More than 30 states adopted these programs. In 1992, I organized a conference of state directors and NASCHIP was born. As a result of these programs, more than 2 million people were able to obtain health insurance, and many were saved from medical bankruptcy.

What have you done as an entrepreneur throughout your career?

I like starting businesses. The first business was at age 20. Since, there have been about a dozen companies that went to scale – some got quite large before being sold. Most dealt with breaking down barriers that exist between what people want and what the market delivers. That gap is a chance for disruption and improvement. In no industry is the gap between what people want – and what they get – bigger than in health insurance. But starting a business is not always about making money; mostly it is about causing change to happen in a good way. An example of that is NASCHIP.

What is it about the digital space for health insurance that is most exciting to you?

We are building tools that create a virtual advisor for consumers so that instead of looking at hundreds of health plans, they can review the 3-5 options that best fit their budget, their lifestyle, their risk tolerance and their personal needs. But we can now bring the intelligence, the caring, the knowledge of the best insurance advisors right to your fingertips, on your device, on your own schedule.

What can you tell us about as a company?

We are privately-held with a great team of ‘maniacs with a mission’ that want to make it easier for consumers to get the healthcare plans that fit them best, as fast and efficiently as possible. We are a technology company and a marketplace company, but foremost we want to be about learning – learning what we can do better, helping our customers learn more about healthcare and insurance.

What is doing different that makes the website special in the marketplace?

Our business plan is not our name. Our business plan is to help millions of Americans find better choices for health insurance by helping them anonymously shop for coverage. There are still some 40 million Americans without health insurance, and another 40 million who are migrating to the individual market from employer-based plans. We want to go beyond numbers of plans and carriers to make a personal connection between the consumer and that one plan that fits them the best. For example, it is not how many suits or dresses that you have in the clothing store, it is about whether can you show me the one that fits perfectly, in the color and style that I want.

How do you anticipate the healthcare delivery will change in the next year?

People will become better and smarter shoppers. Over time, this will lead to reductions in costs of insurance plans.  It will lead to better choices. But also individuals will take more control over their healthcare decisions, because they will be spending their own dollars for many routine expenses. This also has a learning curve.  But with the right resources and tools, consumers will force transparency in medical costs, and that will lead to lower costs and improved quality.



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