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A Stride Toward Simpler Health Insurance in California

The startup aims to ease entry for Americans coming into the insurance market.

Mollie McDowell / Courtesy: Rock Health

A company emerging from stealth mode this week aims to make it easier for consumers to select health insurance plans, as the Affordable Care Act adds millions of Americans to the marketplace.

Stride Health of San Francisco is kicking off in California, specifically looking to serve those who would normally select insurance through Covered California, the state marketplace created by the ACA. (For now, the company isn’t targeting the more than half of Americans who obtain insurance through employer-based plans.)

Co-founder and Chief Executive Noah Lang, formerly a vice president at, said both private and public insurance marketplaces are too confusing, bogged down with dense industry jargon, an excess of options and unclear real-world costs.

“There’s a failure to use consumer-friendly terms and products in this space,” he said. “Typically the consumer products have been built by HR teams or government entities, where you see design by committee. We started with design for the consumer.”

To be sure, selecting health insurance is often a clunky process. But whether it’s painful enough to drive loads of people to a third-party service obviously remains to be seen.

Reports have been mixed in terms of the experience on Covered California to date (here’s a positive one and here are some negative reviews).

Stride Health has created a health insurance recommendation engine (specifically a Web app optimized for tablets) that promises to help consumers more easily compare options by, among other things, using plain language and providing “apples-to-apples comparisons” of estimated total annual costs for competing plans. For more accurate and personalized results, users can enter as much, or as little, information as they want about their specific health care circumstances — including existing doctors, medical conditions, usual drugs and expected treatments in the coming year.

Stride, which went by the name Covered during its months-long private beta testing period, has already raised money from DCM, Kleiner Perkins, Mayo Clinic, Mohr Davidow, New Enterprise Associates and unnamed angel investors. After the company’s initial fundraising, it joined the Rock Health accelerator located in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco.

The company acts as a broker, taking a slice of the premiums earned by the health insurance companies. It is already working with major insurers in California, including Blue Shield of California, Cigna, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, WellPoint and the regional Chinese Community Health Plan. Lang says the company’s recommendations are totally independent of any business relationships with insurers.

The company aims to eventually move beyond California, but isn’t offering a timeline for those plans yet.

For more on the company’s operating philosophy, check out Lang’s earlier Q&A with Rock Health here.

This article originally appeared on