Google parent Alphabet invests $375M in Oscar Health

Imagine a world where you can push a button and see exactly how much a visit to the doctor will cost.

To most Americans who have ever paid a medical bill, this sounds like a scene from science fiction. But Mario Schlosser, founder of insurer Oscar Health, thinks this—and more—is possible, especially now that Alphabet, Google’s parent, has invested another $375 million in his company.

Alphabet subsidiary Capital G invested $32.5 million in Oscar in 2015, and its life sciences division Verily invested another $165 million in it earlier this year. But with this third, heftier investment, “a lot around payments at the point of care … will get much easier,” Schlosser told the tech magazine Wired.

The CEO also announced that Oscar will be entering the Medicare Advantage market in 2020. Currently, the company offers ACA exchange plans in six states as well as employer coverage. 

"Oscar will accelerate the pursuit of its mission: to make our healthcare system work for consumers," Schlosser said in an emailed statement announcing the new funding round. "We will continue to build a member experience that lowers costs and improves care, and to bring Oscar to more people—deepening our expansion into the individual and small business markets while entering a new business segment, Medicare Advantage, in 2020.

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Oscar hopes to reduce costs for patients and improve clinical outcomes by using data in new, technologically advanced ways. In the Wired interview, Schlosser spoke of transmitting data in real time, advancing user engagement on an app, and using AI to process claims—perhaps leaving little wonder why Alphabet saw potential in Oscar.

“Most insurers are somewhere in the '80s” and lack effective incentives to use data and technology to cut costs, he said.   

This news may have made some healthcare consumers raise their eyebrows: Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Google tracks users’ location data even when they tell it not to in privacy settings. Schlosser said Alphabet is a strictly financial investor, and it will not have access to patient data, and it has not through its prior investments.

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Earlier this summer, Oscar said it will begin offering ACA plans in three more states next year, and it will expand its reach in the states where it already provides coverage. In the interview, Schlosser hinted at how his company decides where to expand.

“When we go into new cities, we find health systems that want to build a differentiated experience with us in a different network design,” he said.