Stride Health and Beam: rebuilding dental coverage for self-employed Americans

Noah Lang, cofounder and CEO, Stride Health

Most of you reading this blog don’t need to hear that our health care industry is opaque, inflexible, and brimming with paperwork. That’s the reason our fellow Rock Health portfolio companies are overflowing with innovation to change the system and deliver consumer-friendly, delightful health care experiences.

We’re thrilled to announce our partnership with fellow Rock Health portfolio company Beam Dental to change the way self-employed Americans protect one of their most precious assets: their smiles.

When we launched Stride Health, we focused on delivering a single great experience for our members: simple, personalized health coverage recommendations for independent workers. As we expanded nationwide last year, we faced a growing membership eager to add dental insurance to their health plan purchases. (It was the #2 support request in 2015, just behind members asking us to launch in their state — stay tuned for #3!)

For medical insurance, we now offer a marketplace of over 200 insurance carriers across the US (delivering on member request #1), but we were forced to go in a different direction with dental benefits. We weren’t satisfied with the coverage available on the individual dental market, and neither were our members.

Access to dental coverage is critical for self-employed Americans – every year, American adults lose over 164 million working hours due to dental problems. For the independent contractors who use Stride, every working hour counts: missing hours due to unexpected, costly, and often preventable procedures inflicts unnecessary harm to their income streams.

Unfortunately, we found the dental insurance industry wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Most dental insurance carriers charge consumers high purchase processing fees (often more than 100% of the first month’s premium), limiting the affordability of coverage. Dental plans also have confusing benefits structures and nearly every single plan has a lengthy waiting period. Why buy a plan if you have to wait 6 to 12 months to use it?!

So we sat on the sidelines until we could offer the right plans at the right price to our member base.

We decided to seek out a true partner to team up to build what our member base of Uber Drivers, Etsy Sellers, Intuit Self-Employeds, and many other populations of independent workers needed. As we set out to identify the right partner, we also looked for a dental insurance carrier who could provide product integration to deliver a seamless customer experience from the shopping and buying process all the way through the ongoing use of the dental benefits throughout the year. Most carriers we approached struggled to understand consumer-friendly dental benefit design, let alone how to deliver tight-knit APIs to enable an integrated product experience.

After the first few meetings with fellow Rock Health company Beam Dental, we knew we’d met our match. Beam offered national coverage, empowered us to design our own bespoke plan benefits, and shared our vision for consumer-first, technology-driven experiences (have you seen their toothbrushes?!).

Beam had previously been focused on employer group coverage, so this was new territory for them, too. Using data from our integrations with various workforce platforms, we worked together to design plans we knew would be a hit with our growing population of self-employed Americans.

The result was three new, affordable dental plans uniquely tailored to the self-employed community. They feature 3 key elements we were unwilling to compromise on:

  1. No waiting periods. Members can start using their plan as soon as they enroll.
  2. No transaction fees. Members should use their hard-earned money to pay for benefits, not to subsidize transaction costs.
  3. Simple, transparent benefits. Self-employed workers can pick between three options, each providing an increasing level of coverage, and easily understand the differences.

With Beam, we were able to seamlessly integrate in a matter of weeks — together, we use software where it makes sense to, and couple it with support from our expert team members to deliver quality care for our mutual customers all year long.

But we didn’t just stop there. We put our own money where our recommendations are — and enrolled the entire Stride Health team in Beam plans too!

The addition of Beam’s dental plans represents a shift for us here at Stride Health — we don’t always need hundreds of carriers, we need the right carriers and the right plans. It’s a shift that I hope will set the tone for building personalized consumer health care experiences, and not settling for the industry status quo. It’s what I first wrote about on the Rock Health blog just before we launched Stride Health in 2014: consumers deserve to be treated like they’re buying expensive, complex products. when they make healthcare investments. With Beam and Stride, we’re excited to continue chipping away at the challenge of delivering personalized coverage, care, and financial guidance to the Americans who need it most.