Better Voluntary Benefits with NFP Voluntary Benefits Practice Leader, Kim Heald

Voluntary benefits are among the fastest growing benefits as employers look to provide their teams with enhanced security in 2022 and beyond. But there are both challenges and big opportunities when it comes to incorporating voluntary health benefits into your overall benefit strategy. Join us as NFP’s National Practice Leader of Voluntary Benefits, Kim Heald, shares how to implement voluntary health benefits that work for employers, their teams, and their families.

How Kim Became a Voluntary Benefits Expert 

Kim’s introduction to the insurance business started as a salesperson managing the broker channel at ADP. She left to work as a broker herself and quickly realized  the importance of communication and education in the benefits sales process. She then moved over to the enrollment side before joining NFP to build their voluntary benefits Center of Excellence. Kim has been on every side of the business, which gives her a good appreciation for what goes into a voluntary benefit plan that really works for employers and their employees.  And now she’s able to share her valuable insights within the NFP organization.

Challenges in Voluntary Benefits 

Bad experiences

The first challenge Kim mentioned is that we are still fixing yesterday’s mistakes. Fifteen years ago, the primary delivery of voluntary benefits was done with the employee sitting down with a licensed benefit counselor. Some would argue that there may have been some overselling of high-priced benefits that people often forgot to use. The benefits may have been good, but it was hard to know. They often were too much for employees’ needs, too expensive, or too complicated. So much has changed since then, but unfortunately decision makers (i.e. employers) got the feeling that these benefits weren’t helping much and weren’t worth it. In many cases today, voluntary benefits are a valuable addition to the health benefit strategy, and brokers need to educate their employer clients about new, better options. 

Rushed decision-making

The second challenge is that employer education takes time. Kim and her team are working with their clients to try new things and find the right benefits for their employees’ needs. This is a consultative process, and it’s important to set aside ample time to talk with employer clients to show them the value of voluntary benefits today. It can’t be a ten minute conversation anymore. It has to be an in-depth discussion  about how voluntary plans can function within the context of the overall health benefits package. 

Poor benefits literacy

Another challenge facing the voluntary benefits industry is that employees struggle to understand their benefits completely. Kim tells us that as an industry, it’s time to focus on how we can support employees and help them make good decisions. If employers invest in benefits education, that goes a long way towards helping employees make the most of the benefits available to them. 

Tips for Voluntary Benefit Program Success 

“One piece of advice we often give out is to bring voluntary benefits from the end of enrollment to the beginning. Be prescriptive about how you are going to implement these benefits and present them to employees.” 

It is also important to evaluate the outcomes after the enrollment is complete. Was the pricing right? What options did employees choose? Do they have the right coverage? Bottom line, it’s important to review the final enrollment results to capture the important insights and learnings.  

Brella is a New Kind of Voluntary Coverage

Kim is a believer in traditional voluntary benefit products, but she’s impressed by how progressive Brella’s supplemental health product is.

“Brella is a very progressive offering for this benefit class. There are now thousands of opportunities to receive this benefit, which is a new thing. When employees see that, it’s a no-brainer that it is valuable. It isn’t this super limited benefit with only a few covered codes, it is thousands. Plus, you have made it super simple to understand, and super simple to file a claim.” 

If you’d like to connect with Kim or learn more about NFP you can visit To hear all of Kim’s insights, listen to the episode now. 

Note, this episode is for informational and educational purposes only. Kim Heald and NFP are not endorsed, affiliated with, nor compensated by Greenhouse Life Insurance Company.
If you liked the episode, don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. And to get in touch with Brella, you can email us at We’d love to hear from you.

The Case for Employer Funded Supplemental Health Benefits

by Leslie Harding | May 17, 2021

Supplemental health plans have long been offered as voluntary benefits with premiums paid by employees. With health insurance premiums and cost-sharing on the rise, there is a case to be made for employer benefit dollars going towards supplemental health solutions to help ease the burden. Join us as Brella’s Chief Revenue Officer, Mike Zarrillo explains the advantages of employer-funded supplemental health benefits in Episode 18 of the Better Benefits podcast.  

The case for employer funded supplemental coverage

Mike recently authored an article explaining the case for employer funded supplemental health insurance. In it, he outlines why now is the time for employers to consider reallocating some of their benefit dollars towards supplemental coverage. They include: 

  1. Most of your employees can’t afford today’s health plan cost-sharing
  2. Look beyond traditional supplemental products for new plans that work
  3. HSAs alone aren’t solving the problem
  4. Asking employees to pay is like pouring salt on the wound

We highly recommend reading Mike’s post to get the background for this episode. Below, we recap our conversation with Mike and unpack these ideas to get a full picture of the case for employer funded supplemental health insurance.

What is a supplemental insurance plan? How does it relate to voluntary coverage? 

These are basic questions but they’re an important place to start. Supplemental insurance was invented to help cover life-altering, critical illnesses. It wasn’t designed to be wide-ranging. The sales process involved talking to an employer and pitching that they don’t have to fund these programs, employees will pay the premiums with payroll deductions, and it will be simple and easy to implement.

Over the past several years supplemental products have changed as deductibles have increased. But what hasn’t changed is that they are almost always voluntary. Supplemental benefits have been equated with voluntary benefits because that is the way it has always been done. Up until now, there hasn’t been a compelling reason for employers to fund this coverage. 

Currently the U.S. health system is experiencing burdensome healthcare costs, which drives up health insurance premiums and cost sharing. Critical illness and other supplemental plans are being asked to solve a problem they weren’t originally intended to address. Supplemental plans were intended to cover relatively rare illnesses like heart attacks and cancer. But nowadays people are far more likely to experience financial hardship from common illnesses like appendicitis, kidney stones, diverticulitis, etc. In the past, the need for more coverage for these common illnesses wasn’t there. But today we are seeing younger people with common health issues experiencing large medical bills that hit their deductibles, drain their HSAs, and then saddle them with financial hardship. 

Why is now the right time for employers to revisit funding supplemental coverage?

The timing comes down to a few things. First, it’s simple math. Health insurance deductibles have skyrocketed 800% over the past 25 years, while household income has grown only 18%. It’s really no wonder why half of Americans fear bankruptcy because of a major health event, and 60% would struggle to cover a $1000 unexpected expense

On top of this, research indicates that a growing number of employees are delaying care, or skipping it altogether, because of the potential costs, causing a vicious cycle that negatively impacts their health and wellbeing. 

Lastly, a modern supplemental health option like Brella delivers greater value on an employer’s benefit dollar. Up until Brella, employers have only had access to narrowly scoped supplemental products that weren’t designed to cover the broad spectrum of injuries and illnesses. But Brella is different. Brella plans have a significantly wider scope which better complements the health insurance plan and enhances the health benefits strategy.

We are at a tipping point and things need to change. Supplemental health coverage is one way for employers to take some of the burden off of employees. Any amount of employer contribution can indicate the importance of this coverage and encourage employees to consider investing in it. 

What makes Brella a different kind of supplemental coverage?

Brella is a fundamentally different kind of supplemental health insurance. In one plan, Brella covers a wide range of injuries and illnesses from moderate conditions like dehydration or a simple fracture to more dangerous or life-threatening conditions like heart attacks and cancer.  And Brella triggers benefits solely on the covered ICD-10 diagnosis code, meaning there are no accident or hospitalization requirements. This approach drastically simplifies the claims process ensuring employees and their families receive their Brella benefits quickly to minimize the financial strain caused by unexpected health issues.  

How should employers approach the funding of supplemental benefits? 

There’s no question that employer dollars are precious and the best benefits deliver the greatest return on the employer’s investment. That said, any employer funding of supplemental health benefits starts with finding the right product. Traditional options have struggled to demonstrate the compelling value that would warrant an employer contribution because of the limited coverage those products offer.   Brella changes that discussion.

A logical next step for employers is to think about the importance of the benefits they’re offering and reconsider the allocation of their spend to better align with the highest priority programs. As voluntary-only options, today’s supplemental health plans are an afterthought in the benefits offering. But,  if you had a plan that boosted the health insurance, covered more, and was designed to be utilized, then it would stand to reason that a supplemental plan should garner the highest level of attention after the health insurance plan.  

Finally, it may not be enough to just offer a supplemental plan on a voluntary basis. A plan with some level of employer funding will give it legitimacy with employees and will send the message that the benefit is valuable. Employees are fatigued enough by the time they get to voluntary options during a typical enrollment and those benefits are not viewed as important or relevant. On the other hand, if a benefit includes an employer contribution, it sends the message that it is worth paying attention to during enrollment. 

What are some of the barriers (real or perceived) that are holding employers back? 

Sometimes it just comes down to change. It’s not always easy and it may create a little more upfront work. Brella is a new kind of supplemental coverage that is changing the discussion and challenging the status quo. But we understand it can be overwhelming for some employers to change their plans and their strategy. Employers will have to be willing to take a leap and put in a little work to step forward and approach things differently. We are optimistic that brokers and employers alike remain open to making changes and implementing new solutions. 

How does Brella make buying and implementing supplemental coverage easier? 

It starts with a simpler product. Using its unique ICD-10 code approach, Brella speaks the same language as the medical plan, stripping away the complexity built into the legacy supplemental insurance options. We keep things simple with a clean, black and white focus on what’s covered and how benefits are triggered, eliminating the complexity and confusion of the old school plans.

Next, we leverage tools to demonstrate the unique value a Brella supplemental health plan would bring to your group.  We can review your real-life medical claims data to clearly, accurately, and transparently demonstrate how a Brella plan would perform. This analysis helps showcase the value and utilization of a Brella plan and the potential return on an employer contribution. And, we can model premiums in real-time to show how an employer contribution can positively impact overall plan premiums. That makes Brella more flexible than traditional supplemental plans and allows employers  to fund Brella with confidence. 

Finally, we know that implementing benefits is hard work. We’ve made it easier with paperless plan installation, a simpler, tech-enabled product, and less administrative burden. Plus, by making it easy for employees to actually use Brella, we do our part to improve the overall employee satisfaction with their benefits. Something employers will certainly appreciate.

If you’re an employer or broker, have the discussion. Think about where you can reallocate dollars to offer supplemental health insurance. Next to the major medical, it’s undoubtedly the next most important thing on your employees’ minds.

Listen to the full episode to hear more from Mike.

Mike’s Resources

Mike recommends the book Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell. He tells us that a mentor gave him this book in 2006 as he transitioned into his first leadership role. It had a big impact on him as he took on this new role and grew as a leader.  

In the book, Maxwell talks about levels of leadership that leaders will progress through. A level 1 leader is someone who is a leader only in position, meaning people follow them because they have to. This progresses all the way up to a level 5 leader, someone who is a leader as a person, meaning that people follow them because of who they are and what they represent. This is a guiding light for Mike, who often thinks about how to be true to himself and his values as an effective leader. 

If you want to get in touch with Mike or learn more about Brella, visit our website at or email us at
If you liked the episode, don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. And to get in touch with Brella, you can email us at We’d love to hear from you.

Are Hospital Indemnity Plans Worth It for Your Employees?

By Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance | May 12, 2021

When selecting health insurance benefits for your team, a hospital indemnity plan can seem like an attractive option at first glance. However, hospital indemnity plans pay limited benefits in limited circumstances, which can diminish their value. Here are a few things to think about before offering a hospital indemnity plan to your employees, either on an employer-sponsored or on a voluntary basis.

So, What Is a Hospital Indemnity Plan? 

Hospital indemnity plans were designed years ago to pay benefits if someone is hospitalized. Employers often offer this type of plan because it promises cash payments that can potentially ease an employee’s financial burden if they are hospitalized and incur out-of-pocket expenses. 

The Limitations of Hospital Indemnity Plans

The first issue with hospital indemnity plans is that they only pay benefits if the employee is hospitalized. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 12% of emergency room visits resulted in hospital admission. More efficient modern healthcare and outpatient procedures mean that employees could see less of an opportunity to use a hospital indemnity plan than they might have in years past.  

Another problem with hospital indemnity plans for your employees is their limited coverage. What does a hospital indemnity plan cover, really? It often only covers very specific healthcare services and has limits on the number of hospital stay days it will cover.

Lastly, a hospital indemnity plan is far from an adequate way to shield employees from the sudden financial shock of an unexpected health issue. Until now, an employer would have to combine a hospital indemnity plan with other forms of supplemental health insurance plans just for employees to receive enough benefits to offset what they owe toward their deductible, copays, and coinsurance. However, even with all those supplemental plans, there are still gaps. Accident plans, cancer plans, critical illness plans, and hospital indemnity plans wouldn’t pay any benefits if an employee had a noncritical illness that landed them in the ER but didn’t get them admitted to the hospital. That’s a staggering limitation. 

How can you help employees who are worried about unexpected medical bills?

A Truly Supplemental Alternative

Brella’s supplemental health insurance plan is a great way to offer coverage for employees who worry about paying the cost-sharing associated with their health insurance. Our plan has clear, unambiguous terms and actually covers a wide range of illnesses and injuries — without making your team jump through hoops to use it. Hospital stays are hard enough without worrying about how to pay for them.

We built Brella to offer simple, wide-ranging supplemental health insurance for all types of conditions that generate sudden, unexpected medical bills. We cover more than 13,000 injuries and illnesses, from concussions and dehydration to heart attacks and cancer. Plus, unlike hospital indemnity plans, we don’t have hospitalization requirements. Where care was provided or what the treatment was doesn’t matter. All we need to know is the ICD-10 diagnosis code to pay out a benefit. Our claims process is really that simple.

We offer three benefit categories with customizable payout levels, meaning your team can select the plan that provides the exact level of support it needs. Because we don’t require mountains of paperwork to verify treatment, members can file a claim online in minutes as soon as they’re diagnosed. Once approved, we pay claims within hours — not weeks. Members can receive their Brella benefit payouts before they’re even billed by their medical providers. This offers a major sense of relief to employees when they need to seek medical care.

Plus, Brella is affordable for employees who are concerned about their high-deductible health insurance plans or who opt out of coverage altogether due to costs. Brella can be paid for by you or the employee. What’s more, we can help protect their HSA dollars because we provide a cash infusion when health issues arise. You can opt to redirect HSA dollars to Brella to amplify the impact of those dollars for employees if they’re sick or injured with a condition we cover. It truly is the best way to enhance your major medical insurance.

With Brella, employers benefit from having one supplemental plan to manage (with paperless administration) instead of a string of plans that doesn’t offer the same coverage. And if any issues or questions come up along the way, Brella offers dedicated concierge support for both you and your employees.

To request a demo or a quote, get in touch with us at We’d love to hear from you.

Better Benefits for Women and Families with Maven Clinic

by Leslie Harding | May 10, 2021

Women and growing families have healthcare needs that often fall through the cracks of today’s healthcare system. Maven Clinic’s healthcare solutions provide critical support across fertility, pregnancy, parenting, and pediatrics so that working parents can be healthy and productive. Sonia Millsom is Chief Commercial Officer at Maven Clinic, where she leads their growth efforts, revenue, and customer lifecycle. Sonia is a veteran of the healthcare space and is a sought after speaker, advisor, and mentor.

Sonia’s Journey in Healthcare

Sonia’s interest in working in healthcare started early as she was a Peace Corps volunteer working in maternal health after she graduated from college. She saw firsthand some of the issues that exist with healthcare delivery as she assisted with 27(!) births. She experienced the reality of a lack of appropriate prenatal and postpartum care and how it can impact mother and child. This fueled her passion for helping vulnerable populations. Since then, she has worked in a wide variety of healthcare roles before joining Maven Clinic last year.

Problems Facing Women in the U.S. Healthcare System 

Sonia reports that there are three major buckets of problems that women experience in the U.S healthcare system.

The first bucket is cost and outcome. Despite the significant amount of resources spent on maternal healthcare, the U.S. ranks highest of developed nations in maternal mortality, and that rate is 2.5 times higher for Black women and 3 times higher for Hispanic women. From a demographic perspective, that has huge impacts on care for women in this country.

The second bucket is the healthcare system. There is fragmented care, which makes it hard for women to coordinate the care they need. Nobody’s journey to parenthood is the same, and everyone approaches healthcare in a different way. Right now it’s hard to get comprehensive care.

The third bucket is a lack of consumerism. This is something that can be seen throughout the entire healthcare system. It is a system that wasn’t designed with women in mind, even though they make many healthcare decisions for themselves and their families. 

How Maven is Addressing Healthcare Challenges

Maven Clinic thinks about healthcare in a comprehensive way to deliver better care at a lower cost. They offer support with pre-conception, paths to parenthood, prenatal care, postpartum care, parenting, and pediatrics up to age ten. They also think about care from a global perspective, particularly as employers are thinking about parity between international and domestic benefits. That gives them a unique perspective on creating a great experience for their customers.

Maven’s Three Core Pillars:

  1. Care advocacy – Care advocates hold your hand virtually throughout your whole experience with Maven, guiding you to the best quality care in your area and helping you take advantage of all your health insurance benefits. This helps facilitate trust and builds relationships with members, so they know they have someone they can turn to when they need care.
  2. Telehealth – Built before virtual care was more of the norm, Maven’s telehealth offers 25 different specialties, with a diverse group of providers that can meet the unique needs of all members. Telehealth facilitates on-demand care that supports members when they need it.
  3. Content and community – Maven curates information that may be relevant to members delivering the right info at the right time. Community is so important during the process of growing your family. Maven creates support groups for many diverse topics and situations so they can deliver a best in class outcome in clinical, financial, and personal satisfaction.

How the Pandemic has Impacted Maven 

All of the communities that Maven works with have been impacted by the pandemic, including employers, employees, and the Maven team. Sonia shared with us, “We also think about the 8 million women that we’ve served since we were founded and our own community within Maven that is 160 employees and going strong.” Serving this diverse group of people during the pandemic has been a guiding light for Maven. 

Employers have also been asking for new programs in light of the pandemic. Things like weekly benefit meetings to talk about current issues and manager training for HR professionals. The team at Maven Clinic is nimble, open to listening to customers and innovating to deliver what they want. 

What’s Next for Maven 

Next up is a new program called Maven RX, a specialised pharmacy network that allows women to get discounted fertility prescriptions sent to their home same-day or next-day. They can also get advice from pharmacists on any questions they may have. Maven is also looking to expand on a global basis, creating parity with other countries’ healthcare offerings. 

Maven Clinic is also thinking about vulnerable populations as they build new programs. Medicaid is a huge opportunity to help parents and change outcomes for women’s health. Not everybody is getting healthcare from work and they still need solutions like Maven Clinic. 

Hear more from Sonia in the full episode:

Sonia’s Resources 

For Sonia, people are the greatest resource. That’s why she recommends the Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation (WBL), a nonprofit connecting women business leaders in the healthcare industry. The WBL is all about providing mentoring, networking, and career growth opportunities. Now more than ever, women helping other women is so important. 

If you want to get in touch with Sonia or learn more about Maven, visit Note, this episode is for informational and educational purposes only. Sonia Millsom and Maven Clinic are not endorsed, affiliated with, nor compensated by Greenhouse Life Insurance Company.

If you liked the episode, don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. And to get in touch with Brella, you can email us at We’d love to hear from you.

How We Redesigned Supplemental Health Insurance

By Amanda Turcotte, Chief Insurance Officer, Brella Insurance | May 5, 2021

Traditional insurance product design starts with a problem: not hitting sales targets, claims are too high relative to premium, claims are too expensive to process, etc. Then what happens?  

The product team brainstorms new ways to configure their existing products to solve the problem, or maybe add a new rider. There might be a broker round-table to listen to feedback from the field and brainstorm together on a solution. The marketing team might give a “voice of the consumer” presentation. Once a solution is identified, the product is developed, filed in 50 states, given a good marketing launch, and set free in the world with high hopes of stellar sales.  

Then what? Usually, the market reaction is less enthusiastic than hoped, but some positive comments come in from a few brokers and insurance leaders pat themselves on the back that they’ve done great work. Sales come in, and—if they’ve projected well—they are on target.  Sometimes they’re above expectations, and then the claims team and risk management gets worried. Sometimes the market doesn’t care at all about this “cool new product innovation.”

Why is this the way we “innovate” on product in the insurance industry?  

At Brella, we take a different approach, using a process called “human-centered design.”  Instead of focusing on a business problem, we focus on the problems in the daily lives of our customers. By focusing our solutions on them, we build better products that resonate throughout the value chain. Solving real problems is powerful!

So how do we do this?  We are relentlessly focused on three things:

1) We listen to people.  

The biggest thing I’ve learned from making the switch to human-centered design is the importance of listening without problem-solving. When a good interviewer or focus-group leader is talking to a research subject, they encourage the participant to talk. They ask open-ended questions, and leave pauses when the subject has finished their initial thoughts…often they continue after a short break and deliver deep insights.  

Even after our initial research is done, our everyday interactions with members, employers, brokers, and providers, are an opportunity to listen with curiosity and try to deeply understand the experience of others in our community. That means we have to resist our initial impulse to solve the first problem they mention, mental wheels whirring as soon as we think we have a solution. Set that aside and just listen, allowing someone to share their experience. You might find their first complaint was only symptomatic of a much larger problem. Human-centered design helps you get to the root issue.

2) We look for qualitative patterns.  

As an actuary, I’m primed to find patterns in numbers. We look for trends, and use those trends to project results. The unstructured data we get from listening isn’t easily put into spreadsheets or summarized in averages and standard deviations…but that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize patterns. Using the tools of qualitative analysis, we can draw out insights from interviews and focus groups that are different from anything we could have found by analyzing numbers.

Just as there are experts in quantitative analysis (actuaries, CPA’s, and investment analysts, to name a few), there are also experts in qualitative analysis. Our data is valuable, and analyzing it thoroughly is important if you want to make the right decisions in moving your business forward.  You wouldn’t decide to buy a house just based on its price, age, and square footage (quantitative measures)—you also consider things like location, curb appeal, and accessibility (qualitative measures). Similarly, if you’re only paying attention to quantitative data analysis, you’re likely ignoring important facets of your business that can’t be put on a spreadsheet but have a big impact on results.

3) We think broadly about solutions.  

Insurance is a great tool to help households manage risk. At Brella, we’re focused on solving the problem of sudden, unexpected financial shocks due to medical events. Supplemental insurance is the perfect tool to address that specific problem. However, because we put people first, our next solution may be a savings product, or a credit product, or a consumer education product. Our job is to find the right solutions to address the problems of our members.

There are often practical considerations to delivering a solution that’s outside your company’s core mandate. An insurance company produces and sells insurance—there is some scope to create supplemental educational materials, but there isn’t a lot of flexibility to deliver solutions in other verticals. A new subsidiary could be started to test new non-insurance solutions, or partner and co-market another company’s product to deliver those solutions.

To wrap up

At Brella, we believe that when we are relentlessly focused on delivering value to our customers, we build value in our company. This approach is what led us to completely redesign a supplemental health product that can address the gap in coverage that’s been created over the past decade by rising health insurance deductibles. Who knows where human-centered design could lead your team? To learn more about human-centered design for employee benefits, I recommend listening to this interview with product design consultant, Carolyn McMahon. You can also check out IDEO’s human-centered design kit to try it for yourself. 

Building a Seamless Benefits Experience with Noyo

by Leslie Harding | May 3, 2021

Employers are increasingly turning to benefits administration platforms to manage ever-changing enrollment data with multiple carriers across their suite of benefits. In this episode, Noyo Co-Founder and CEO Shannon Goggin joined us to talk about Noyo’s API-driven solutions that power data exchange between the leading benefits administration platforms and a plethora of carriers, from industry veterans to new solutions like Brella.

Shannon’s journey to working in health insurance

Earlier in her career, Shannon was a strategy consultant at Monitor Deloitte. Shannon says she didn’t expect to get into the benefits space after leaving consulting, but she wanted to work with a new and innovative company, so she looked to join a startup. Her search led her to join Zenefits, a startup working in the HR and benefits space to help small businesses. Shannon worked as a Product Manager, where she built the engine for the small business insurance shopping experience. She says that she had always understood health insurance to be a pain, a little intimidating, and not very interesting. But working at Zenefits changed that completely, as she found out how complex and dynamic health insurance can be. 

Shannon saw that all of the things that are happening behind the scenes in insurance administration are directly impacting people’s experience with their healthcare. That makes those behind-the-scenes moments so important, yet they often weren’t optimized the way they could be. She explains, “The point of insurance is that you pay a little bit every month into a pool of money, so that if something happens where you need to draw on it, it’s there for you. And in a lot of ways our industry misses the mark and falls short of delivering on that promise to people.” So Shannon came to find that modernizing the health insurance space is really high-impact work. 

The problem with insurance data and Noyo’s solution

Employers face a lot of challenges behind the scenes managing their benefits. When it comes to data, we still haven’t cracked the code for getting data out of benefits administration programs into carrier platforms. The way data moves around the health insurance ecosystem is very complex. The data is often sensitive health information, and it’s important because it directly impacts what coverage people are actually enrolled in and when they can use it. In benefits administration, manual processes, inefficiencies, and bottlenecks are common, and they have important real-world consequences.

Noyo was founded to provide a solution to these data-related issues in benefits administration. Noyo is a complete API solution that sits between benefits administration platforms and insurance companies to make it easy for them to share data. They take data transparency very seriously, and offer granular tracking of data and changes. This helps employers and employees alike feel confident that they know where their health insurance coverage stands at any given time. 

For example, let’s say you have a new hire who has just started and signed up for coverage. They fill out paperwork that goes to the carrier. From that point forward, it’s pretty much a black box. The employee doesn’t know if the paperwork has been received, processed, or anything else. It’s possible they may go to the doctor thinking they are covered, only to find there was some issue on the administration side and they have a huge bill. That’s a really bad experience for everyone involved. 

Noyo is not only improving the employer’s experience with their benefits administration platform, but also enabling new types of benefits to become available because it’s easier for companies to integrate with benefit administrators. That’s one of the reasons Brella has announced they are partnering with Noyo.

Fostering innovation in an established industry

Shannon tells us that if you know too much about the way a space works, it can be difficult to break out of that thinking and come up with new ideas. It’s important to marry that deep experience with diverse backgrounds so that creative thinking can happen. You can’t approach a hard problem like health insurance with the same solutions that have always been used. 

Advice for choosing a benefits partner 

Not all integrations are the same. There’s a lot of marketing out there, but it’s smart to really ask what is happening behind the scenes. Is it truly automated? How long will certain tasks take? What technologies are they relying on? It pays to be specific and ask these questions before committing to working with a benefits partner. By choosing forward-thinking partners, like Noyo and Brella, you’re positioning yourself for long-term success. It’s not just about being successful today, but about setting yourself up for success tomorrow. 

The impact of COVID-19 on Noyo and the insurance market

COVID-19 impacted the insurance industry in myriad ways. Noyo has always had a distributed team, so luckily there wasn’t much to change in the way the team works. 

At a broader level, Shannon saw that the pandemic made people wake up to how quickly they can make necessary changes. In the past five years, there has been a dramatic change in attitude towards new technology in the insurance space. There used to be tons of inertia at many organizations, but now that has really shifted, especially with the pandemic. Many companies have stopped looking at ten-year time frames for changes and made dramatic changes in just a year. That’s a big shift for the industry. 

Hear more from Shannon in the full episode:

Shannon’s resources

Shannon recommends Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values by Fred Kofman. The book talks about creating a valuable company that is values driven and values aligned. He lays out values you may be thinking of and tough situations you may have to navigate as you build a company. He guides you through how to approach these situations so you can have positive outcomes at your company. It’s not your typical business self-help book. 

If you want to get in touch with Shannon or learn more about Noyo, visit their website at Note, this episode is for informational and educational purposes only. Shannon Goggin and Noyo are not endorsed, affiliated with, nor compensated by Greenhouse Life Insurance Company.

If you liked the episode, don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. And to get in touch with Brella, you can email us at We’d love to hear from you.

How Insurance Leaders Can Learn to Think 10x

by Veer Gidwaney, Founder & CEO of Brella Insurance | April 28, 2021

We live in a world where 60% of Americans would have to borrow to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense, yet if an individual is fortunate enough to have health insurance through their employer, the average individual deductible is $1,644 (source: KFF 2020 Employer Health Benefits Survey). No wonder 33% of Americans put off care in 2020 over concerns about cost. 

How do we, as insurance leaders, employers, and brokers, keep burdensome health insurance cost-sharing from delaying care and creating financial stress? A 10% improvement, the kind of upgrades you can make within the framework of your existing policies and platform, isn’t going to cut it. We need employer-sponsored health benefits that create 10x the value for today’s employees. 

But with entrenched business practices and slim tech resources, the insurance industry has lost the ability to think 10x. What would a 10x improvement in health benefits look like? Can we even imagine it? 

As an entrepreneur, I’ve spent my career building up mental muscles for 10x thinking. You can’t build a new company on a 10% improvement of an existing product or incumbents will quickly catch up and take away your competitive advantage. So you have to think in terms of 10x value creation. 

Here’s how insurance industry leaders should start thinking to create 10x value for their clients and members.

First, make sure you understand the problems in your customer’s journey.

This isn’t just about doing surveys. Gather insights through conversations with your customers. Actively engage the people you don’t usually hear from. It can be easy to respond to the loudest complaints from employers or members, but what’s working or failing for the customers who renew every year? What failed for the people whose business you lost? 

This kind of qualitative research, sometimes called human-centered design, might reveal that you haven’t been trying to solve the problems that matter most to your customers. So have some open-ended conversations and get focused on the right problems that need solutions. 

Define what 10x value looks like.

How will you know when you’ve solved your customers’ problems and delivered 10x value? So often in today’s insurance world we’re focused on minimizing the loss ratio. But this can sometimes breed behavior that is in conflict with the interests of the policy holder. We have to focus on customer value, and then build a profitable business on top of that value engine. 

Let’s take a common example from the voluntary benefits space. Employees face huge bills if they go to the hospital, and they often wait weeks to be paid. What if instead of paying a claim in 3 weeks we could pay it in 3 days or 3 minutes? Now we’ve defined something of 10x value that we can aim for.

Next, design a product that delivers 10x value

Only after you’ve understood the customer’s problem and defined what 10x value would look like are you ready to start designing a solution. In our example above, the question becomes, how do we pay a claim in a matter of days or minutes? To get there, you’re going to have to break existing paradigms.

When we thought about that question at Brella, we realized we couldn’t build a product that reimbursed members for treatment, because employees would have to wait for EOBs or other documentation from their providers. Instead, we decided to pay claims based on the diagnosis. 

This approach allows employees to submit evidence they have on hand as soon as they’re diagnosed. A mobile app and online member portal make it really easy to upload photos of documents from your phone. Plus, deciphering the diagnostic code from unstructured data like hospital discharge papers or lab results is something we can eventually automate with natural language processing and AI. 

So by changing our plan design to pay benefits on diagnosis, we added value in the following ways: 

1. Members can submit claims as soon as they’re diagnosed which means they can start a claim much sooner than with today’s supplemental health products. 

2. We can use technology to speed up how the claim gets back to our team, which is a much better member experience than faxing pages of forms to submit your claim.

3. We can adjudicate claims in hours, and, eventually, we’ll auto-adjudicate most claims in minutes because all we need to know is the diagnosis.

By focusing on delivering a better member experience, we ended up building an insurance product that is truly valued, with a healthy and predictable loss ratio. On the way, we were able to build a company with a lean operating model to help keep our premiums low.

One last tip: 10x thinking requires both plan and technology expertise

The only reason we were able to build Brella the way we did was because we had insurance and technology experts at the same table. When you’re dreaming up a new plan design consider involving your platform team earlier in the process. The best way to drive 10x thinking in your organization is to bring cross-functional teams together to focus on designing new solutions to the problems that matter most to your customers.

Brella raises $15M Series A to Fuel Nationwide Expansion

NEW YORK, April 22, 2021 / PRNewsire / —  Brella Insurance, Inc. announced it has raised a $15M Series A funding round led by Brewer Lane Ventures to bring Brella’s modern supplemental health solution to employers nationwide. Since inception, Brella has raised over $22M. Brewer Lane Venture’s Founder and Managing Partner, John Kim, will join Brella’s board of directors.

“We’ve made significant progress bringing our modern supplemental health insurance product to market. This financing will fuel nationwide expansion and alliances with leading benefits brokerage firms and strategic partners,” said Brella’s Founder and CEO, Veer Gidwaney. “This is yet another important milestone in our journey towards building our vision of a world where health hardships don’t create financial burdens.” 

A recent study shows 60% of Americans would have to borrow to pay an unexpected $1,000 bill. Yet the average working American has a $1,644 health insurance deductible and a $4,000 annual out-of-pocket max (Source: KFF Employer Health Benefits Survey 2020). So the harsh reality is that an unexpected health issue will almost certainly lead to financial distress for people who have health insurance. It’s no wonder 33% of Americans delayed healthcare in 2020 over concerns about cost.

Traditional supplemental products are simply too narrow in their scope of coverage to help absorb the financial shock of a health issue that leaves American workers suddenly responsible for significant medical bills. On top of limited coverage, these plans have outdated and complex claims and administration processes that don’t make life easy for employers or their employees.

Brella redesigned a tech-enabled supplemental health insurance plan that pays cash if you’re diagnosed with any of 13,000+ conditions from concussions to cancer. Brella makes it easy for employers to enhance their health benefits offering with one truly supplemental policy that’s simple to implement and administer.

“Health insurance is a significant financial burden for American workers, even when they have employer-sponsored insurance. Brella’s combination of technology and insurance plan innovation uniquely positions it to meet this need with broad distribution through employers, brokers, and strategic partnerships,” said Brewer Lane Ventures Founder and Managing Partner, John Kim. 

Along with Brewer Lane Ventures, Brella’s new investors include Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company among others. Existing investors SymphonyAI LLC, Digitalis Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, New York Life Ventures, and Founder Collective, among others, also participated in the round. 

Brella is actively engaging brokers and employers in Texas and will be launching in a series of new states in Q2 2021. To learn more and get in touch, visit or email

Listen in to John Kim in conversation with Brella’s Mike Zarrillo and Laura Cave as they chat about what we’ve learned to date and where we’re headed in 2021 and beyond.

Media Contact

Laura Cave
Director of Marketing

About Brella

Founded in 2019, Brella is modernizing supplemental health benefits to build a world where health hardship doesn’t mean financial hardship. Brella’s simple supplemental plan covers 13,000+ conditions and pays cash on diagnosis that you can use for anything you need on the road to recovery. Learn more at and follow @brellainsurance.

About Brewer Lane Ventures

Brewer Lane Ventures is an early-stage venture firm focused on Insurtech and Fintech companies. Using our deep knowledge of the insurance and financial services industries, we invest in startups that will transform the market for companies and consumers alike. We bring together domain expertise from founding and scaling startups, venture investing, and running Fortune 100 companies. Brewer Lane’s partners and advisors have significant operating and board experience in leading financial services companies like New York Life, Prudential, CIGNA, Fiserv, Franklin Templeton and SoFi.

To learn more, visit us at or @BrewerLaneVC

The Case For Employer-funded Supplemental Health Insurance

By Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance | April 21, 2021

Since 1995, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), health insurance deductibles have surged nearly 800%, while premiums have risen by over 300%. Alarming, right? But what’s even scarier is that household income has increased only 18% during the same time period. Yet, far too many employers lack supplemental health protection to bridge the gap.

For years, supplemental health benefits have been an afterthought for benefit advisors and employers who have been focused on coping with skyrocketing health insurance premiums. On top of that, our industry hasn’t delivered a comprehensive supplemental solution to aid in solving the cost crunch. As a result, when supplemental health benefits are offered, they’re left to the employee to buy on a 100% voluntary basis. 

Saddled with multiple outdated, complex, and narrowly-scoped options, enrollment rates in voluntary supplemental health benefits continue to be a challenge. Can the employee afford them? Will the employee understand them? And maybe most importantly, how lucky will the employee be in guessing which one they may actually be able to use in a given year? 

Given the global COVID-19 pandemic, years of rising premiums and cost-sharing, and employee fear of the unexpected, we can no longer afford to treat supplemental health benefits as a voluntary option. If we do, we’ll miss the opportunity to build benefit programs that fulfill their mandate to boost employee retention and productivity. Even worse, employers who offer supplemental health on strictly a voluntary basis may even be undermining their overall health benefits strategy. 

Here’s why it’s time for employers to support and fund a supplemental health solution:

#1: Most of your employees can’t afford today’s health plan cost-sharing. 

The harsh reality is that 60% of Americans in a recent study said they would have to borrow to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense. Meanwhile, the average deductible for an employer-sponsored health plan is $1,644, and the annual out of pocket maximum is over $4,000. Families fare even worse. And a 2020 survey showed that individuals earning $130,000 to $160,000 were just as likely to be financially stressed as those earning $15,000 to $25,000 per year. 

The math simply doesn’t work. Any deductible can feel like a high deductible if your employees don’t have savings to cover the cost of an unexpected health issue. They need a supplemental health solution, and an employer contribution will certainly make it more affordable.

#2: Look beyond traditional supplemental products for new plans that work.

Employers should be choosing benefits that deliver real peace of mind and benefits that keep employees happy and productive in their jobs. Voluntary benefits, like today’s supplemental health options, with complex rules, limited coverage, and unfriendly claims processes are going to give the few employees who actually use them a poor experience. 

Yet according to a recent survey, 76% of benefit advisors endorse a combination of Accident and Critical Illness plans. Did you know that Accident and Critical Illness policies combined only cover 23% of the conditions that typically require emergency medical attention?* There are simply too many common medical conditions that don’t result from an accident or aren’t deemed dangerous or life-threatening. Think kidney stone, appendicitis, a benign tumor, etc. The bottom line is we need to look beyond the traditional plans to find solutions that are worth the investment.

#3: HSAs alone aren’t solving the problem

Don’t get me wrong, HSAs are a terrific financial tool. But they’re most valuable because they defer tax on dollars that can be used to cover medical expenses in the future, ideally after retirement. The “S” in HSA stands for savings, yet a report in 2019 estimated that nearly 75% of HSA contributions were withdrawn. So if health events keep draining their HSA accounts, employees may never build up the kind of balances that can sustain them later in life. 

The average annual employer contribution to an HSA was $870 in 2020. There’s no doubt this helps soften the blow of an unexpected medical event for employees, but depending on the type of condition or how many conditions the employee or their family experiences in a given year it may not be nearly enough. The fact is $870 won’t go very far for most employees. Employer dollars are precious and stretching them as much as possible is where we find meaningful value and return on their investment.

#4 Asking employees to pay is like pouring salt on the wound

Employers have been forced to make some tough decisions when it comes to their healthcare dollars. As a result, employees have seen the value of their health benefits eroded by rising premiums, deductibles, and annual limits. Asking employees to fully pay for the gaps in their health coverage, when they’re already paying more and more every year, may be adding insult to injury.

Importantly, employees understand that employers contribute to the most important benefits in their program. Voluntary benefits are usually at the bottom of a long list where they are starved for attention. Employees can’t be expected to care about plans that the employer signals are not valuable. There may not be a more important benefit than supplemental health to help solve the biggest fear most employees have today. Contributing to a supplemental health plan sends the message that this coverage is important and the employee should take the time to learn how it works. 

Why employer contributions to Brella supplemental health benefits work

Let’s be clear. Employer contributions to a supplemental health plan work wonders but only if the plan is like Brella — wide-ranging coverage and easy to use. Up until now, there hasn’t been a product that amplifies the value of an employer contribution. Rather than pour dollars into low utilization benefits or those with virtually no tie-in to the health benefits strategy, employers can invest in a Brella plan that covers 13,000+ conditions and uses game-changing technology to simplify the claims process and minimize the financial hardship caused by unexpected medical events.

Look it up and you’ll see that supplemental means “provided in addition to what is already present or available to enhance or complete it.” Brella was built to do just that — enhance or complete the overall health plan strategy. And an employer’s contribution is a surefire way to signal its value, peak employee interest, and boost enrollment rates. This in turn drives satisfaction with their health benefits and lets employees focus on doing their best work.

* Statistics aggregated based on Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality annual reports on emergency room diagnoses for working-age adults in the U.S.

Founded in 2019, Brella is modernizing supplemental health benefits to build a world where health hardship doesn’t mean financial hardship. Brella’s simple supplemental plan covers 13,000+ conditions and pays cash on diagnosis that you can use for anything you need on the road to recovery. Learn more at and follow @brellainsurance.

Better Benefits Podcast Episode #15: Is Health Insurance Reimbursement a Viable Health Benefits Strategy? with Take Command Health

by Lesling Harding | April 19, 2021

In this episode of Better Benefits, Kyle Estep joined us to talk about individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (ICHRAs) and their viability as a health benefits strategy for employers. Kyle is the Head of Growth and Business Development at Take Command Health, a Dallas-based company on a mission to accelerate the adoption of the health insurance reimbursement model. Previously, Kyle spent five years building out insurance operations and sales in the Texas market with Oscar Health.

Kyle’s journey to the healthcare industry

Kyle started his career in consulting and got an MBA around the time the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was introduced. The ACA changed the game in healthcare, and when he went back to consulting he was involved with some really interesting insurance projects. He was looking to do more healthcare-related work when he heard about Oscar Health. He joined their team in Texas and had a lot of fun building the business, launching new insurance products, and growing the team. 

Then along came new legislation during the tail end of the Obama administration that said small businesses could reimburse employees for health plans tax-free. This was a game changer. The Trump administration went on to widen these rules, paving the way for more widespread adoption of health reimbursement arrangements. This was a eureka moment for Kyle, and he joined Take Command Health to be able to build out this new product.

What is an individual coverage health reimbursement arrangement (ICHRA)?

ICHRAs are a new alternative to traditional group health insurance. They can be offered instead of group health benefits or in addition to group health benefits. Historically they have been a bit of a hot button topic, with many in the industry debating if they are a great opportunity or flawed alternative to traditional benefits. 

ICHRAs came about in part because employers have long been asking if they can just give their employees money and let them choose their own insurance. That way they can avoid the headaches that come from choosing plans and going through renewal every year. Plus, they have more flexibility if they have employees in multiple states. 

Before the ACA, that wouldn’t have worked well for two reasons. One, if employees were healthy they may have been able to get “good” coverage on the individual market, but if they had pre-existing health conditions, they could be out of luck. The ACA introduced consumer protections in the individual market that eliminated this issue. Two, tax law wouldn’t have allowed it. In the past, employers were not allowed to reimburse employees for healthcare. These payments would have been taxed as wages and subject to all regular payroll taxes. But those regulations changed, which allows ICHRAs to have the same tax treatment as a group plan. 

How Take Command Health is bringing ICHRAs to market

Take Command Health offers an end-to-end solution for employers who want to implement an ICHRA. They help employers manage reimbursements and their  software  supports employees as they shop for their own plan.

Take Command offers support for employers, employees, and even brokers. Employers need to make sure they stay compliant as they implement an ICHRA. They also need to choose an amount to reimburse that accomplishes their goals and makes the most of employees’ buying power. The team at Take Command can look at an employer’s current health plan and translate that offering to an ICHRA. It’s all about understanding what an employer’s goals are and how to achieve them.

For employees, choosing their own plan may seem daunting. By regulation, employees must be allowed to pick any local ACA-compliant plan. The Take Command team helps employees make their choice and can even submit applications to some insurance carriers. 

Take Command Health also helps their broker partners understand the ICHRA model and figure out what the whole solution would look like. This is a great solution for brokers to have in their back pocket for clients who might be a good fit. They also have a revenue share arrangement with brokers so they can get paid appropriately for their services.

The impact of COVID-19 on ICHRA adoption

ICHRAs were first broadly available in 2020, so we’ve yet to see meaningful historical data on adoption rates. But we do know that the pandemic introduced a lot of new concerns for employers, especially with healthcare-related issues. It was a time of competing priorities, and it’s certainly possible there was hesitation to change benefits. Take Command Health still doubled in size last year, which was very exciting. The team is looking forward to the market stabilizing and being able to offer ICHRAs to employers who are looking for new options.

What’s next for Take Command Health?

Kyle tells us that Take Command Health is excited to continue to grow in 2021 and beyond.  That will entail a lot of recruiting and hiring to find the best team members. The team is also looking forward to getting back into a physical office. They are excited to build more partnerships with brokers and learn how they can best help them and their clients. The team is also working on a payment solution where employers can pay carriers directly for premiums, so employees don’t have to worry about fronting the money. This would be a big win for employers and employees alike. 

To hear more from Kyle, listen to the full episode:

Kyle’s resources

Kyle’s favorite resource for data related to the healthcare industry is the Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a go-to for all types of research, and it is an invaluable resource for anything related to healthcare in the U.S.

If you want to get in touch with Kyle, visit Take Command Health.

Note, this podcast is for educational and informational purposes only. Any discussion of taxes is for general informational purposes only. Greenhouse Life Insurance Company, its agents and representatives, do not give tax advice. Kyle Estep and Take Command Health are not affiliated, endorsed, or compensated by Greenhouse.

If you liked the episode, don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. And to get in touch with Brella, you can email us at We’d love to hear from you.