Despite Uncertainty, the "Uber of Health Insurance" is Expanding

Oscar Insurance, co-founded by Jared Kushner's brother, announced expansion the day before details of GOP health bill emerged.

Oscar, the company that poised itself to be tech’s answer to the challenges of American healthcare, is expanding again. The news came just before details of the GOP’s Senate healthcare bill have emerged.

Oscar filed to either initiate, continue, or expand offerings in Ohio, Texas, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, and California for 2018. Tennessee and Ohio are new markets for the operation, with Ohio proceeding as a collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic. The company plans to target Nashville in its move to Tennessee, a city experiencing rapid population growth.

App-centric and confidently new, Oscar debuted in 2012 with rumblings that it may become “the Uber of healthcare.” It claims to offer a “data science operation that enables proactive clinical insights” as well as “free, 24/7 virtual visits,” in its appeals to demand that new technology to make healthcare cheaper.

It has been a rocky road for the company so far, incurring substantial losses at times. It withdrew from New Jersey late last year before announcing its return this week. The company has done things like incentivize fitness by rewarding customers that walk a certain number of steps per day (which they track through their app and a free wearable) and has overall tried to maintain an image of modernity and simplicity. Still, many subscribers have complained of high costs and uncovered procedures.

The company, which has over 100,000 subscribers, announced the move in a time of great uncertainty for the exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act. The Senate bill came to light today, and already faces internal criticism from 4 noteworthy Republican Senators, mainly over claims that it bears too many similarities to the Affordable Care Act that their party has vehemently opposed. Whether it passes or not, the currently-laboring exchanges seem likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

"For all of the political noise, there are simply too many lives at stake for representatives in Washington, DC not to do what's right for the people," Oscar’s CEO Mario Schlosser wrote regarding his company’s decision.

The company itself is fascinatingly tied-in with the players in today’s politicized healthcare landscape. It received a great deal of early investment from Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire most vocally supportive of President Trump. One of Oscar’s three co-founders is Josh Kushner, the younger brother of Trump son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner.