Gravie is a 2021 Inc. Best in Business honoree. With the second annual Best in Business awards, Inc. recognizes companies that have had a superlative impact on their industries, their communities, the environment, and society as a whole.
You’re not alone if you don’t love your health insurance provider. After all, the industry ranks third-worst in Net Promoter Scores of customer satisfaction, just above the monopolistic internet service and cable TV industries.
Marek Ciolko and Abir Sen saw all that dissatisfaction as an opportunity. In 2013, they co-founded Gravie, a health benefits marketplace, with the goal of creating a user-friendly company that also provides great coverage.
Fast-forward to 2021, and Ciolko and Sen are well on their way to accomplishing that mission. Minneapolis-based Gravie allows employers to set budgets for their employees, who in turn can choose the plans that work best for them and their families. Last year, the company launched its pièce de résistance, Comfort, a benefits plan that features 100 percent coverage on common services–including primary care, specialist visits, lab work, imaging, and generic prescriptions–at a cost comparable with that of most insurance plans but without co-pays or deductibles.
Co-CEOs Ciolko and Sen say they aimed to create the Comfort plan from Gravie’s earliest days. They sought to devise a benefits package targeted at people who are generally healthy–a population that tends not to get the most out of its health insurance plans.
“A lot of people are disillusioned with their insurance coverage,” says Ciolko. “They don’t feel like they’re actually getting anything for all the money they’ve spent, because every time they have to use the health care system they’re being asked for more money.”
Ciolko and Sen previously co-founded another health care company, Bloom Health, and sold it in 2012. The expertise gained from that experience has come in handy. Gravie’s staff of health care professionals spent years developing the Comfort plan, which required some serious number-crunching and intimate knowledge of a complex industry. In some cases, the team rewrote claim adjudication systems, which determine an insurance company’s responsibility in covering a medical bill, from the ground up.
The result is a plan that so far has saved the average customer $100 per month in out-of-pocket costs, according to Ciolko. Of course, it isn’t designed for everyone. Those with high annual medical bills–and who therefore prefer lower out-of-pocket maximums–will have high monthly premiums and have difficulty making the math make sense. But for people in relatively good health, it could be a game changer.
“A $10,000 deductible almost feels like having no benefits at all,” says Ciolko. “These are real benefits that you can use from day one.”
Between the Comfort plan and Gravie’s insurance marketplace, the company has connected more than 100,000 people with benefits across 1,500 employers, including Indeed Brewing Company and vocational services company Pinnacle Services. Gravie has $77 million in funding from investors including GE Ventures, Split Rock Partners, and AXA Venture Partners.
While his company’s financial success has been, well, gravy, Ciolko says what makes him happiest is enabling people to make potentially lifesaving preventive visits without worrying about costs.
“People tell us all the time that being able to take care of their health in a way that doesn’t push them to the brink of bankruptcy has been life-changing,” he says. Indeed, it would be.
Clarification: An earlier version of this article identified co-founder Marek Ciolko as CEO. Abir Sen was recently named co-CEO, alongside Ciolko, and the article has been updated to reflect this change.
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From the Winter 2021/2022 issue of Inc. Magazine