Cash-pay healthcare startup Sesame jumps into employer market

Sesame, a startup that enables patients to access cash-pay telehealth and in-person visits, is jumping into the employer market.

The New York-based company rolled out this week Sesame for Employers, a new service that provides employee healthcare offerings for small and medium-sized businesses. The startup says its employer-based service is offered at a fraction of the cost of traditional managed care programs through insurance carriers. 

Sesame for Employers gives small and medium-sized businesses an edge in talent wars with healthcare benefits for as little as $20 per employee per month, according to company executives.

Kaiser Family Foundation found that in 2021, the average health insurance cost for employers was $16,253 annually, or 73% of the premium, to cover a family and $6,440, or 83% of the premium, for an individual. 

For the 60.6 million people who work for small businesses, employer-sponsored healthcare is often not a reality as many employers simply can't afford to spend the health plan costs or they haven't had to offer it to attract and retain employees in past labor markets.

RELATED: Sesame raises $24M to expand cash-pay marketplace for healthcare services

But the "Great Resignation" has changed the game for employers as 47.4 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021. Small and medium-sized businesses are now challenged to meet rising demands, including offering better benefits.

"There has never been a more urgent time to help SMBs survive and thrive, and affordable health care can play a significant role," said David Goldhill, Sesame's co-founder and CEO, in a statement"The labor issues faced by SMBs are an existential threat. There are millions of unfilled SMB jobs, and the Great Resignation is compounding the problem. Sesame For Employers gives SMBs another tool in their toolkit for valuing and retaining their employees, and more effectively recruiting new ones."

smartphone with screenshot of Sesame healthcare app
Sesame's healthcare marketplace (Sesame)

The service for employers is built on Sesame's healthcare marketplace the company launched in 2019. That marketplace gives consumers direct access to more than 16,000 healthcare providers that charge a cash price and do not accept nor require insurance.

In November 2021, Sesame reported that patients using its cash-pay healthcare marketplace had saved between 20% and 67% on the cost of healthcare services.

According to the company, its users saved an average of 67% on dental care, 60% on cardiology services and imaging, 40% on dermatology and 31% on psychiatry, Forbes reported.

Through Sesame for Employers, employees receive unlimited telehealth benefits including primary care, urgent/sick visits, prescription refill appointments and access to many in-person services.

RELATED: Employer insurance costs jumped in 2021—and the future is murky

The program also can be fully customized to fit a small business's needs, including adding access to mental health clinicians, covering employee family members or offering other specialty care areas such as dental, according to the company.

Goldhill, a business executive and healthcare reform advocate, founded Sesame to help connect patients and providers directly, providing clear, affordable prices and transparent descriptions of services. Sesame's direct-pay solution allows uninsured or underinsured patients—as well as those with high-deductible health plans—to find affordable quality care.

In April 2021, Sesame pulled in $24 million in new financing backed by new investors Giant Ventures, Industry Ventures and Coefficient Capital. Existing investors General Catalyst, Entree Capital and Atreides Management have also contributed additional funds to help Sesame scale. The funding brought Sesame’s total capital raised to just under $50 million since its founding two years prior.

In August, the company added an online pharmacy, administered behind the scenes by Truepill. The mail-order pharmacy service, called SesameRx, includes nearly 200 FDA-approved generic medications for conditions such as allergies, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, ADHD, insomnia and more.

Sesame For Employers also includes complete access to SesameRx.