Startup insurer Bright Health is doubling the number of states where the Minneapolis-based health plan competes — an expansion plan that fits with a broader trend of carriers seeing a shot at growth in the individual market.
Bright Health, which already competes in parts of Alabama, Arizona and Colorado, announced plans Wednesday to expand into portions of New York, Ohio and Tennessee.
Launched in 2016, Bright Health initially focused on selling individual market health plans that comply with the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) and has since added Medicare Advantage plans for seniors as well.
“This expansion triples our footprint in 2019 and that means bringing quality, affordable healthcare to more hardworking American families,” said Bob Sheehy, the company’s chief executive, in a statement.
Bright Health sells insurance that’s focused on one health care system in a community, so the network of doctors and hospitals can coordinate medical services in hopes of providing efficient, high-quality care. The company focused first in 2017 on the individual market in Denver before adding Medicare plans this year in Denver, Birmingham, Ala., and Phoenix.
Now the company is adding health-insurance products for 2019 in Tucson, four metro areas in Ohio, three metro areas in Tennessee and New York City.
In the individual market, which serves people under age 65 who are self-employed or don’t get job-based coverage, next year the company will start selling health plans in Phoenix, Tucson, Ariz., and the three Tennessee markets. The individual market underwent sweeping change starting in 2014 with the ACA, which prohibits insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions.
So far this year, there have been roughly a dozen other examples where carriers for 2019 are expanding in the individual market, including a recent announcement that Minnetonka-based Medica will start selling coverage in Missouri and Oklahoma.
Sheehy is a former executive with Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest health insurer, and his company has been backed thus far with $240 million from investors.
In May, Bright Health employed 164 people and listed 25 job openings on the company’s website.
A spokeswoman for Bright Health on Wednesday said the company’s board of directors now includes Andy Slavitt, a former executive with UnitedHealthcare’s parent company. Slavitt was acting administrator during the Obama administration of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency responsible for implementing key provisions of the ACA.
Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744 Twitter: @chrissnowbeck