Insurance exchange Featured

1:05pm EDT July 5, 2011
Insurance exchange

Bryce Williams started Extend Health based on a simple but powerful idea, one that would challenge entrenched benefit consultants for Medicare. His company would be competing against large insurers selling group plans to corporations. He took the business model from a fragmented but personal market (individual Medicare plans) and applied it to a large, organized market.

It was a risky concept, and the early years were difficult for Extend Health. One of the major obstacles it had to overcome was the belief that group benefits delivery was always better and cheaper than individual coverage plans. Another obstacle was paternalistic thinking that a plan promised in the past should be kept.

To make a go of it, Williams had to borrow money from relatives and sell most of the assets he and his wife had. But in seven years’ time, Extend Health became the largest Medicare exchange in the United States.

A key part of that success is the mass personalization through Internet technology that Williams introduced at Extend Health. Plans can be compared side by side. The company does not charge clients for its services; it accepts the commission embedded in the rate of each plan offered on the exchange. Exchange Health says it has saved millions for its clients.

Williams insists on ethical behavior from his company and employees, and to that end, has invested in a customer relationship management system that allows every interaction with Medicare enrollees to be recorded, insuring accurate and honest Medicare enrollments.

One of the initiatives he launched was a Six Sigma redesign of the customer experience. All employees were asked to give input, including benefit advisers who talk to customers daily. Started in 2009, it continues today, and draws enthusiastic involvement from employees who enjoy being able to compare their individual and team performance all the while improving the customer experience.

How to reach: Extend Health Inc., (650) 288-4800 or