Health care innovation is sustainability in action
By Michael Galhouse, Brandeis University
Michael Galhouse is a student in the Sustainable Development Master's program at Brandeis University and an Oregon Fellow at Portland State University. He's also a former Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic. His last post to Voices was about electric fleet vehicles.
The high cost of health care is often cited as a major drag on our industrial competitiveness. Companies struggle to provide employees with insurance coverage as prices have far outstripped inflation. While it's often overlooked as an issue for businesses working on "green" practices, the current health care model is anything but sustainable.
President Barack Obama hopes to address this untenable situation with his Affordable Care Act. One of its more promising elements is the establishment of health insurance exchanges that will introduce greater competition to the market and drive down prices through increased transparency. This provision doesn't begin until 2014, but a Portland startup is already using its disruptive online marketplace to advance a small, quiet revolution in health care delivery.
SprigHealth.com launched last October, expanding the options for accessing medical services while leveraging transparency to improve affordability. Users can shop online for over 88 discounted healthcare services ranging from acupuncture to ultrasounds. The site allows you to see providers' availability and choose an appointment — often for the same day. Payment is made online via credit card during the booking, so you know exactly what a procedure will cost. Since providers don't have to deal with billing an insurance company they are passing savings of as much as 50 percent on to consumers.
Looking under the hood, I discovered that Sprig is actually an offshoot of Cambia Health Solutions, itself an insurance company. I asked Sprig’s President, Kris Gorriaran, what to make of this peculiar origin last week. Acknowledging the irony, she said it was not surprising given that Cambia’s CEO, Mark Ganz, is a “real visionary” who recognized the opportunity to expand into an adjacent market: the uninsured.
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