Benefits broker Nava launches free search engine hoping to democratize benefits discovery

Nava, a benefits brokerage, launched a free, publicly available benefits search engine last week.

The company's benefits search engine allows employers to search for digital-friendly benefits across 28 categories including telehealth, mental health and addiction. With more than 600 offerings available, the company hopes to eliminate barriers to benefits discovery. 

Working with the company’s advisory board consisting of the heads of benefits at leading companies like Amazon, Walmart and Airbnb, it has come to understand how difficult the benefits world is to navigate for employers, Brandon Weber, Nava CEO and co-founder, told Fierce Healthcare. There is so much innovation that the number of options can be overwhelming. What’s more, these offerings get “bottlenecked,” not making their way to smaller companies, Weber said. Among those with less than 500 employees, health benefit costs grew 9.6% in 2021, a higher rate than that of large employers with 5% growth. Nava clients’ average premium renewal rate is 73% lower than the former figure, it claims.

Driving this problem is the traditional benefits brokerage industry, Nava executives argue, worth upward of $88 billion and projected to continue growing. Critics and media have drawn attention to the opaque mechanisms by which they operate, amassing commissions and bonuses from payers whose contracts they land. Those fees are baked into premiums, meaning the more the client pays, the higher the commission. That, Weber explained, creates a perverse incentive to recommend the most expensive plans of the biggest vendors.

“We are trying to build a new kind of brokerage industry,” Weber said, adding Nava hopes it will have a "Zillow moment” in terms of democratizing the process. (Weber was an early product manager at the real estate site.)

The platform verifies all vendors and lists their information and reviews. Through the platform, Nava hopes new, digital-first vendors will have a way of getting out to market, and employers will be able to select or at least narrow down their options in what Nava calls an “unbiased” space. Employers can review vendors, and the platform is also equipped with a benchmarking tool that shows users what benefits similar companies offer. Nava will provide quotes on a vendor for free, and plans to only charge for services once it is hired as a broker.

Weber believes there will still be a need for Nava’s services, particularly among smaller employers, because they want to avoid the risk of getting the complex world of benefits wrong.

Since its launch, the benefits search engine has already surpassed 500 reviews, and more vendors have reached out to Nava requesting to get verified and on the platform, Weber said.

“Having a self-service resource like Nava’s benefits search engine that allows users a transparent view of what’s available and how it stacks up to competitors’ offerings is huge for the HR (human resources) community and provides another layer of education to drive conversations internally and with our brokers,” said Lexi Clarke, senior director of people at Payscale, in an announcement.