About a month ago, three 20-something entrepreneurs launched a website that some users say helps them learn information about health insurance plans more easily than the federal government’s healthcare.gov site that an army of workers has developed for years.
Co-founders of the privately run site, TheHealthSherpa.com, include Potomac native Michael Wasser. The Seattle resident majored in computer science and economics at the University of Maryland, College Park.
“We aren’t trying to compete with the federal government’s site,” said Wasser, 26. “We have different goals in that we are mainly providing information and don’t sign up people. You can’t really compare the two.”
The site essentially takes government information on health plans and makes it easier for people to access, he said. The company doesn’t just rely on government sources but collects other information such as details on co-payments and deductibles, as well as provides information on insurers for users to contact directly.
Since launching, the site has seen traffic rise dramatically, with about 2 million page views in the past three weeks, he said. Wasser and co-founders George Kalogeropoulos, 28, and Ning Liang, 27, have already been featured on CBS News, Fox Business News and other media outlets.
Yale University graduates Kalogeropoulos and Liang live in the San Francisco area, where the fledgling business is based.
“I can work fine remotely from Seattle,” said Wasser, who met his partners through a friend about nine months ago.
A New Hampshire woman, who praised the site as “much easier” to use than the government one, said on the CBS newscast that she “was not surprised” three guys in their 20s could devise an easier site to access than the federal government.
The trio recently met with Bryan Sivak, chief technology officer of the Department of Health and Human Services, to discuss their website and how they can help people learn more about the plans. This month, U.S. Sen. Angus King Jr., an independent from Maine, urged residents to use HealthSherpa as a temporary alternative for those experiencing difficulties with the federal site.
More than 30 states do not have their own sites and exchange markets, and residents there must use the federal site. The rest, including Maryland, have their own sites.
“HealthSherpa offers a user-friendly platform to quickly browse through available health insurance plan options, including monthly premium costs, coverage plans and possible premium subsidies,” King said in a statement. “I recommend that Mainers who are having trouble with Healthcare.gov use HealthSherpa as a temporary alternative until the federal website functions properly.”
The Maryland site, MarylandHealthConnection.gov, also has had its share of technical difficulties. In its first month of operation in October, about 1,300 people signed up for private health plans, below the pace of some states with fewer residents such as Vermont and Connecticut.
But the pace has picked up in November. Almost 1,000 people in Maryland enrolled for private plans from Nov. 3 through Nov. 16. Officials have a goal of signing up 150,000 by March 31.