I don’t live in New York State and as such am not able to consider Oscar as our health insurance company, but I’ve watched the development of this interesting web-based insurance company. An article in Fortune Magazine this past December offered some interesting background on the company as well as the way it conducts its business.
Without a doubt when it comes to marketing Oscar is cheeky to say the least. There have been ads for Oscar on the NYC subway promising “Health insurance that won’t make your head explode.” …. and if it does, you’re covered. Ha-ha. But to me from the start the concept behind Oscar – simple, straightforward, focusing on wellness, less expensive, was reason to be interested. But as they say in the NFL – ‘After further review’ …I’ve become less enthused.
Perhaps it was the radio spot I heard today (I had not seen this offer earlier) that Oscar is giving members $1 for each day they walk a targeted number of steps, as measured by a free wearable fitness tracking device made by Misfit Wearables. Oscar will pay the rewards in the form of a $20 Amazon gift card. Sounds good right?
Wait a second. Let’s make sure we know what’s going on here. For $20/month, (which is somehow less than the aforementioned $1/day – unless Oscar months are only 20 days which would be an explanation why prices might be lower if you only covered 20 days out of the month. I’m kidding of course), Oscar will track your movements to ascertain your discount-worthiness. Even if you are ok with that concept since it is supposedly designed to motivate you to be more ambulatory and active, just exactly what might happen to your data?
Let’s say you then agree with the concept. At $20/month are you selling your data too cheaply? What are the risks? We all know data is super-protected right? Especially when it comes to medical data (just ask Anthem Health). Oscar would surely never sell your data to a third party and that would be covered with terms and conditions.
But what if for some reason, criminal or not, the government decided to subpoena your Oscar data for some reason (that may or may not be disclosed)? Think about it do you really own that data? The point that Oscar might use the data to refute a medical insurance claim is mentioned in an article from Gigaom per Oscar CEO Mario Scholsser who noted ‘We are very careful to never use [Misfit health tracking] information internally in any process around determining clinical necessity for certain procedures or authorizing procedures..” Feel more comfortable now? I’m glad that Oscar will be careful. That’s far from a guarantee. Quite far actually.
I’m all for innovation and a champion of doing new things and things differently. I thought Oscar was on that track but the more I look at it they appear to be a careless healthcare provider. What do you think?