Oscar heads into 'strong' individual market looking to lure members with consumer-centric onboarding

First impressions are important at Oscar Health. 

The startup insurer has invested in designing a consumer-friendly website for open enrollment this year. Consumers who sign up through their website can see a side-by-side comparison of covered services, cost-sharing and premiums. 

It's part of the company's broader strategic approach to attracting customers, said Sara Wajnberg, senior vice president of product at Oscar. 

“We operate as a classic technology company does," she told FierceHealthcare. "We do a lot of experimentation, a lot of A/B testing, a lot of user research, a lot of all the processes that typical tech companies do … to create a super user-friendly experience."

Oscar's enrollment interface focuses on simplicity—an approach Wajnberg called "holistic" in a blog post published on Tuesday. Consumers receive a clean, straightforward list of steps they should take before coverage begins, like paying their first bill. They can also make appointments directly through Oscar’s website and, if need be, access a digital version of their insurance card.

That user interface is combined with personalized interactions. Enrollees are assigned to a “concierge team” that can best meet their needs according to their specific location. Individuals based in Manhattan, for instance, will have a concierge based in the same area with insights into the regions healthcare landscape. And Spanish-speaking applicants will be paired up with a bilingual concierge. 

The company considers onboarding “very, very critical,” and hopes to “capitalize upon those first key moments," to retain consumers and provide them with coordinated care, Wajnberg said.

The individual market is still “strong” and “active,” she said. This year, the company is entering three states—Arizona, Florida and Michigan—and it will expand in Ohio, Texas and Tennessee. 

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Despite being known for their focus on digital solutions, Wajnberg said Oscar's membership isn't limited to a younger demographic more likely to be immersed in technology. In fact, the company plans to offer its first Medicare Advantage plans in 2020. 

Alphabet, Inc.—Google’s parent company—invested a third round of funding into Oscar in August. With that funding, Alphabet hoped to make Oscar’s products available to more people and to expand its IT department. The company's onboarding strategy appears to serve both those purposes, though Wajnberg wouldn't say whether the resources that went into that development were linked to the recent funding round. 

However, she acknowledged that this is “the type of work the investment will help us do more of.”