Tag: Kate Greenwood

Can Oscar Succeed In Making Health Insurance Fun? Maybe Not Just Yet. But the Startup Is Shaking Things Up …

Last week  I went to a panel presentation sponsored by the group NYC Health Business Leaders on the rollout of New York State’s health insurance exchange.  Among the speakers was Mario Schlosser, the co-founder and co-CEO of the venture-capital-backed start-up health insurance company Oscar Health, which offers a full range of plans through New York’s exchange.

As NPR reported last month in a story about Oscar, “it’s been years since a new, for-profit health insurance company launched in the U.S.”, but the Affordable Care Act created a window of opportunity for new entrants.

Schlosser began his talk by giving us a tour of his personal account on Oscar’s website,  Among other things, he showed us the Facebook-like timeline, updated in real time, which tracks his two young children’s many visits to the pediatrician.

He typed “my tummy hurts” into the site’s search engine and the site provided information on what might be wrong and on where he might turn for help, ranging from a pharmacist to a gastroenterologist, with cost estimates for each option.

Additional searches yielded information on covered podiatrists accepting new patients with offices near his apartment and on the out-of-pocket cost of a prescription for diazepam (which was zero, since there is no co-payment for generic drugs for Oscar enrollees).

As an audience member noted, none of this is new exactly.  What is new is to have this kind of data-driven, state-of-the-art user experience being offered by a health insurer.  Schlosser told the audience that Oscar’s pharmacy benefit manager and other vendors are providing the company with real-time data that other insurers have not demanded.


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The FDA Steps In: Regulating Prescription Drug Promotion on the Internet

KATE GREENWOODKate-greenwood-7-16-08-compressed-200x300

The FDA has been widely criticized for not providing guidance for drug companies eager to promote their products on the internet.  Earlier this year, the FDA expressed the view that the message was what was important, not the medium, meaning that companies should simply apply the rules governing prescription drug advertising in print media to the internet.  On April 2, 2009 the agency issued Notice of Violation letters to 14 companies who sponsored links on internet search engines advertising their products; the links gave the name of the drug and, in some cases, its indicated use, without including the required “fair balance,” i.e., safety information such as contraindications and potential side effects.  In reliance on the so-called “one-click rule” — which had never actually been adopted by the FDA — the companies had put the required safety information one click away on a separate page.

In recent months, the FDA has indicated that it is open to providing internet-specific marketing guidance.  Yesterday and today (November 13th) the agency is holding a hearing on “Promotion of FDA–Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools.”  Representatives from advertising agencies, consumer groups, health-related websites, pharmaceutical companies, and search engines are scheduled to testify.

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