*The following was originally published on TechCrunch on May 13, 2011*
If you’re like me, terms like “out of network” and “deductible” are cringe-inducing. Not just because they generally involve me forking over money for healthcare, but also because navigating the waters of health insurance — and figuring out exactly what I should be paying for — is a complete pain. Cake Health is a startup that’s looking to help by becoming the ‘Mint for health insurance’, offering an attractive and easy-to-use interface for managing common tasks like choosing an insurance plan, monitoring your claims, and figuring out which health services you should be taking advantage of.
Cake Health is still in private beta, but they’ve extended 500 invitations to TechCrunch readers. The first 500 people to click this link will be able to sign up.
The company was founded by Rebecca Woodcock and former TechCrunch developer Andy Brett, who walked me through an early version of the service. During the initial signup process you’ll be asked to connect with your healthcare provider’s website. Assuming your provider is supported (it has around seven in California so far) Cake will pull in your recent claims for each family member, how much you’ve paid out of pocket, and your progress toward meeting your deductible. The service will also look at what your benefits are and make suggestions accordingly — if you’re eligible for two dentist visits per year and haven’t gone yet, it’ll let you know.
Woodcock says that the service can save users money in a few ways. First, it will help suggest plans that best suit your needs (sort of like a BillShrink for health). The service will also check to see that the claims being filed make sense — if you’re getting billed for procedures that don’t seem logical (like, say, a colonoscopy and a root canal during the same visit), it’ll let you know. Woodcock explains that medical billing is typically a very manual process, and that many errors can get introduced as data is entered into the computer.
Cake Health is still early on in development so I’ll wait on a full review, but it’s already clear that it has its work cut out for it. The health insurance industry is extremely fragmented — each state has different insurers, and many insurers don’t distribute their coverage information in a structured format. Brett says that Cake is building a system that will help automate data entry (Cake needs to input data on the doctors and procedures covered by each plan), but it still sounds like a daunting task. Mint had the luxury of relying on Yodlee to handle much of its backend financial processing, whereas Cake Health is going to have to build out that infrastructure itself.
There’s also the fact that the service is dealing with medical information, which is obviously sensitive. The company has hired lawyers who focus on healthcare to make sure everything is in line with the relevant laws, but there’s still the matter of getting users to hand over their health information. And it’s unclear how the insurers themselves will respond.
Cake Health isn’t the only company looking to help make healthcare less painful. Castlight Health helps make the costs behind health procedures more transparent, and unlaunched startups Massive Health and Simply will also be in this space (the latter sounds like more of a direct competitor to Cake).