(Bloomberg) — Oscar Insurance Corp., the startup trying to reinvent medical insurance with its Affordable Care Act public exchange-focused plans, lost more than $200 million on the products in 2016 as it heads into a year that may see the undoing of the health law.
The company offered plans in four states in 2016 and lost about $204.9 million on premium revenue of $425.9 million, according to filings. The loss widened from $121.7 million in 2015.
The company says it exited some markets, invested in operations and is aiming for a turnaround in 2017, yet its fate may be closely linked to one of its key backer’s relatives. Oscar co-founder Joshua Kushner is brother to Jared Kushner, who is the husband of Ivanka Trump and a senior adviser to President Donald Trump. Trump has promised to “repeal Obamacare,” without clearly defining what he includes in the term “Obamacare.” The repeal efforts seem likely to affect the ACA exchange public, the ACA individual commercial health insurance rules and other provisions Oscar was founded to profit from.
Oscar Chief Executive Officer Mario Schlosser remains optimistic for the insurer’s prospects, saying that this year, the company’s fourth in those markets, will show a “significant improvement.” In New York, its largest market, the startup has moved to cut costs by working with a smaller set of hospitals and doctors, called a narrow network, a strategy already used in other regions. It also stopped selling in two areas, and boosted premiums significantly.
“It’s really the first time, 2017, that we were able to price fully on our own systems and our own networks and with more visibility,” said Schlosser, who’s also an Oscar co-founder. “We’ve got the machinery now together.”
The company said it isn’t gaining any special insight from the Kushner brothers’ relationship.
The company is also moving to sell health insurance to small businesses in New York and California. That’ll help Oscar diversify away from the volatile individual market and eventually target large companies.
Under the current ACA rules, the individual commercial health insurance market has been a tough market for insurers, who’ve had to contend with enrollment shortfalls, costly customers, and the failure of a government program intended to ease losses. UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Aetna Inc. and others exited most of their individual major medical and ACA small-group exchange business ahead of 2017 to stem losses, which McKinsey & Co. estimates at $8.9 billion industrywide last year.
In 2017, Oscar has 54,000 enrollees in the New York City area. (Photo: Allison Bell/LHP)
Oscar is betting that lawmakers will come up with an ACA solution that stabilizes the individual market and continues to create demand for the insurer’s product. The company’s executives said Oscar may expand into new markets for 2018, even as others pull back.
“There will be a market going forward and we’re optimistic about the stabilization drive coming out of the government right now,” Schlosser said.