Unless your ears are welded shut, you know that healthcare is a pressing issue in the US. Whether it's the political discourse pertaining to a single-payer system or the desire for a repeal of Obamacare, the need for citizens to have affordable access to healthcare is something that has to be talked about. But while politicians and social media trolls duke it out over the future of healthcare, one company is trying to make access to health insurance easy for people in the present.
Allay is the country's first virtual health insurance brokerage platform. They assist companies with 500 employees or less in providing certified benefits to all employees, the need for which is abundantly clear. Allay also eases companies into the new system by providing HR advisors that are experienced and knowledgable in the field. This will help companies not only feel comfortable with their health insurance set up, but will also help them to find the perfect plan.
I spoke with Allay cofounder and CEO Julien Emery about the need for Allay in the current healthcare system, the unique aspects of the platform, and his vision for the future of the company.
What need did you see in the market that had you launch your company?
Emery: “We saw a growing complexity in HR and health insurance regulations. They were causing greater cost and administrative burden on small to mid sized businesses, and the need for greater expertise and help with these new regulations was apparent. It's not feasible for smaller companies to have this expertise in house.
At the same time, traditional insurance brokers, and tech companies trying to displace insurance brokers, operate in a transactional way that is underserving this market. They are pushing the use of standardized, cookie cutter health policies with minimal advice or effort to help companies ensure proper coverage for all employees. Some even refuse to use alternate funding strategies or plan designs that could help customers control costs and get more out of their plans.”
We noticed some brokers shifting away from being just transactional brokers and becoming true benefits advisors. These advisors were helping their customers save money and navigate shifting regulations, ensuring employees were taken care of. They are continuously trying to help their customers (who were often understaffed HR and operations teams).
Just like a business leans on a strong tax advisor instead of going through TurboTax for everything, we see the same thing with good benefits advisors. We saw an opportunity to build a vetted network of great advisors working through the Allay platform. Their aim was to help any business with 1-500 employees make better decisions about benefits for their employees and streamline all HR operations.
How is your business different than companies like Gusto and Zenefits?
Emery: “Gusto is predominantly a payroll product that has began to sell insurance. Allay is a broader full HR operations product. Gusto is also aiming to eliminate the strategic advisors, who we see delivering tremendous value to our customers via the Allay platform on a regular basis. Zenefits is also pushing to eliminate these same advisors, which is very different from our approach and vision for the future of this industry.”
Where do you see Allay in 5 years?
Emery: “In 5 years, within the small to mid size business market, I see traditional transactional insurance brokers being a thing of the past. I believe that good brokers will shift how they operate in order to become an extension of their customer's HR and operations team and act as advisors to help manage healthcare costs long term. Allay is the platform that is going to enable that shift, bringing greater efficiency and cost savings to businesses by doing so.”