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 On top of limited coverage, these plans have outdated and complex claims and administration processes that don’t make life easy for employers or their employees.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.

4 Health Benefits Strategies That Will Give Your Team Peace of Mind

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer at Brella | February 17, 2021

Unfortunately, when your employees get sick or injured, it’s difficult for them to know what kind of care they’ll need or what it will cost. If they have major cost-sharing responsibilities with their health insurance on top of these uncertainties, employees may delay getting care to avoid unaffordable medical bills. This can lead to further, costlier health issues down the road.

Your employees earn good salaries—they couldn’t be stressed, could they? Contrary to popular thinking, research has shown that it’s not always lower-earning employees who may struggle to afford high out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Recent research found that people who make between $130,000 and $160,000 a year are the second highest group experiencing financial stress, surpassed only by people who earn $25,000 or less.

Employee financial stress impacts all areas of an employee’s life, including their work, which is undoubtedly costing your company. The same report found that people who are financially stressed are more likely to be absent, have strained relationships with coworkers, and leave daily work tasks incomplete. They’re also more likely to be looking for a new job.

The best way to keep your team both healthy and productive is to ensure that your health benefits strategy gives employees the peace-of-mind they need to go get quality care when they need it and focus on doing their best work.

With an ongoing pandemic, rising healthcare costs, and challenging economic headwinds, there’s never been a better time to make sure your employee health benefits put your team’s mind at ease. Here are a few tactics to get you started:

1. Supercharge your team’s health insurance.

If your team should become sick or injured during the year, a small investment in Brella’s supplemental health insurance plan can go a long way toward helping them cover high out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Brella stands apart from traditional voluntary plans because we offer a wide range of coverage all in one plan, and we make it easy to file a 100% paperless claim.

With personalized benefits for more than 13,000 conditions — from dehydration and concussions to heart attacks and cancer — your team won’t have to worry about whether they’ll be covered if an unexpected health issue arises. Brella brings peace of mind quickly, paying cash via Venmo, Paypal, or directly to the employee’s bank account within hours of claim approval.

2. Make health benefits easy to use.

Your team can’t rest easy if they have benefits that are hard to use and a hassle to figure out how to access. Too many benefit offerings are stuck in the past, using confusing terminology and outdated processes instead of simple solutions backed by modern technology. Brella’s claims experience, on the other hand, is fast and easy.

Your employees can easily file their claims online or through the Brella app using readily available information about their diagnosis. There’s no need to wait weeks for EOBs or invoices before filing. They can take photos of things like a discharge summary, a prescription, or even an emergency room wristband. Once they hit “submit,” our team will review the claim and pay cash within hours of approval.

3. Select employee health benefits that include support.

Your employees are more aware — and more worried — than ever about their health thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. In light of this uncertainty and the complexity of today’s health benefits, offering guidance and education about your employee health benefits is key to your team’s peace of mind.

To that end, Brella’s supplemental health insurance plan offers members a dedicated Concierge (a real person!) devoted to supporting them throughout their membership. That means if your team ever has a question or problem, we’ve got an easy solution — and that’s a relief to employees who’ve had bad experiences trying to get answers about their benefits.

4. Don’t wait until open enrollment to take action.

Waiting for open enrollment to update your health benefits strategy is risky at a time like this. Your employees may struggle to cover out-of-pocket healthcare costs this year because they didn’t anticipate or understand the costs that might be coming their way when they elected their health insurance plan. 

Fortunately, you can introduce Brella off-cycle in just a few weeks without creating administrative headaches. Our paperless implementation and account setup are quick and easy. We can handle enrollment on our platform where employees can personalize their benefits and enroll in minutes.

Your employees have enough to worry about without stressing over whether they’ll be able to afford care when they get sick or injured. With Brella’s simple supplemental health insurance plan, your employees can get the peace of mind they need to thrive at work.

If you’d like to learn more about Brella, have your broker get in touch with us at today.

4 Ways to Reduce Employees’ Unexpected Out-of-Pocket Healthcare Costs

By Mike Zarrillo, Chief Development Officer at Brella | February 10, 2021

Like most employers, you’ve probably had to make some tough choices to control the cost of your company’s health benefits in the past decade. In an effort to control rising premiums, employee healthcare costs in the form of deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, and other out-of-pocket medical expenses have increased substantially.

Today, as much as 83% of insured workers are stuck with an average deductible of $1,644. Only a decade ago, 70% of workers had a $917 deductible on average. All in all, these numbers amount to an 111% increase in the burden of deductibles for insured workers! That’s not to mention the rise in out-of-pocket maximums, which the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services allowed to increase 35% since the Affordable Care Act was passed just 7 years ago.

The average out-of-pocket cost for healthcare is a heavy burden for your employees to bear, and unfortunately many don’t realize the implications of their plan until they’re faced with unaffordable medical bills after being treated for a health issue.

Given the fact that only 39% of Americans can afford to cover an unforeseen $1,000 healthcare expense, employers who don’t help their team manage healthcare costs risk the loss in productivity and morale that comes when employees are stressed about finances.

The good news is that by offering innovative and practical employee health benefits, employers can help their teams manage the average out-of-pocket costs for healthcare and any unexpected medical expenses that come their way. Try the following strategies to help ease the burden for your employees:

1. Offer a truly supplemental health insurance plan.

Traditional supplemental health insurance plans fall short when it comes to filling the gaps left by your employer-sponsored health insurance. Accident plans only cover accidents, for example, which excludes illnesses. Critical illness plans limit coverage to a short list of covered conditions, and hospital indemnity plans only apply if an employee is admitted to the hospital. As a result, sudden out-of-pocket medical expenses often aren’t covered by traditional voluntary policies. 

We started Brella because we believe supplemental health insurance plans should actually provide financial relief when employees are sick or injured. In just one simple plan, Brella covers more than 13,000 injuries and illnesses with no accident or hospital admission requirements. With Brella, your employees can choose the level of coverage they need to offset their cost-sharing responsibilities. Plus, they can use Brella’s benefits to cover other everyday costs that may pile up like groceries, transportation, and childcare. 

2. Choose employee health benefits that are easy to use.

Supplemental health insurance plans often sound great, but in practice they’re difficult to use. Most require employees to fill out and fax in long claim forms. And employees often wait weeks for their benefits to be approved and paid. This was once the norm in most of the business world, but today’s consumers want fast, digital experiences that provide greater ease and transparency. 

Brella makes it much easier to file a claim — and receive cash benefits for a wide range of covered conditions. All your team has to do is download the Brella app or log on to their online Member Portal. They can submit a claim in minutes and, once approved, they’ll receive their benefits in a few hours. 

Best of all, your employees don’t have to wait until their bill comes to file a claim. Any evidence that verifies their diagnosis will do. Employees can submit photos of items they commonly have on hand after treatment, such as photos of their hospital wristband, cast, or IV bag, discharge paperwork, lab results, or prescriptions. By offering employees a modern, easy-to-use way to control healthcare costs like Brella, you’ll not only save them money, but time and stress as well.

3. Improve financial and healthcare literacy.

Employees who have a solid financial position and who understand their benefits are less likely to be stressed by their health insurance cost-sharing responsibilities. However, many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and research has shown that 25% of those struggling make over $160,000 per year. Financial literacy, coaching, and health benefits navigation services can help employees across your organization build a stronger financial position and make more confident healthcare decisions. 

4. Don’t wait until 2022—make benefits changes off-cycle.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, employees have new health concerns and pent up demand for care that was deferred in 2020. This means your employees are more likely than ever to pay out of pocket for healthcare in 2021. They can’t wait until 2022 for support. Consider adding supplemental health coverage like Brella off-cycle. It’s easier than you might think.

Brella was built to easily bolt onto existing health benefits programs. Our paperless implementation and account setup and easy online administration, we won’t create administrative headaches for your team. Plus, your team can learn about Brella, make their benefit selections, and enroll in minutes through our proprietary enrollment platform, Brella Enroll.

By carefully researching your choices and making bold changes early in 2021, you can ease the looming financial burden of out-of-pocket medical expenses for your employees and offer them much-needed peace of mind.

Don’t wait until next Open Enrollment to bring your team relief. If you’d like to learn more about Brella, have your broker email today.

3 Signs Your Health Benefits Strategy Is Costing More Than You Think

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance | February 3, 2021

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to employers that financial stress is a leading cause of anxiety for employees. Because of the coronavirus, finances are tighter than usual for a lot of people. In fact, income is still below pre-pandemic levels for 42% of households.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that this financial stress might be related to gaps in your company’s health benefits strategy. If you’re like most employers, the unrelenting increases in the cost of your health benefits has forced you to make some tough decisions in order to gain financial control. Those tough decisions often result in insurance plans that simply can’t offset the high cost of healthcare for your employees. What may seem good for business isn’t actually good for the people in it: Plans with higher cost-sharing and deductibles burden employees with prohibitive upfront costs that lead to more financial stress.

In turn, employee financial stress can have negative effects on your company. The sleepless nights caused by this kind of stress make employees 10 times more likely to leave daily work tasks unfinished, nine times more likely to have problems with their co-workers, and two times more likely to look for a different job.

So how do you know if your health plan is adding stress to your employees and costing them — and your business — too much? And what should you do to fix it?

Your health benefits strategy might be causing your employees financial stress if…

1. Your employees are delaying healthcare.

Preventive healthcare services are crucial in catching health issues early and keeping more costly treatments at bay. Yet employees are putting off treatment due to the high cost of medical bills. In 2020, 33% of Americans reported either putting off treatment for a medical condition or knowing a family member who had done so in order to save money.

If your health benefits strategy includes higher deductibles and cost-sharing, many of your employees may be forced to do the same thing. With additional COVID-19 concerns in 2020, look out for more claims in 2021 to get an idea of just how common it was for employees to delay care.

2. Your employees are absent or less productive than usual.

The high cost of healthcare doesn’t just impact employees’ stress — it also impacts their productivity. How exactly can financial stress affect employee productivity? The more expensive it is to get treated, the more likely employees are to delay getting care for unresolved or chronic health issues. This, in turn, pushes the stress and health issues to even greater heights.

That’s not a formula that empowers your team to do their best work. Instead, it leads to reduced productivity and increased turnover costs of anywhere between 13% and 18% of your yearly payroll. That means employee stress isn’t just a morale issue — it could be hurting your company’s bottom line.

3. Financial stress is leading to employee health issues.

For many people, the high cost of healthcare is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to financial stress. Worry over credit card debt, student loans, and rent or house payments plague many employees. Add to this the fact that half of adults in the U.S. worry that “a major health event in their household could lead to bankruptcy” and you have a cumulative effect that harms not only employees’ happiness in their personal lives and their productivity at work, but also their health.

People dealing with financial stress are six times more likely to suffer from panic attacks and seven times more likely to suffer from depression. Chronic stress has serious effects on a person’s physical health, too. Not only can it cause headaches and digestive problems, but it can also have more dire repercussions, like increased risk of heart disease. Financial stress and health are inextricably linked, for better or worse.

Brella is here to ease employees’ financial stress.

Fortunately, there are innovative options for mitigating the effects of financial stress on the health of both your employees and your company.

Adding a supplemental health insurance plan like Brella can help employees handle unexpected medical bills. Brella eases the burden of out-of-pocket costs by offering cash-on-diagnosis for more than 13,000 conditions — from broken bones and pneumonia to heart attacks and cancer. Brella can even be added off-cycle so employees don’t have to wait until next year to get help.

We make it easy to file a claim with just a few photos of documents employees usually have on hand after they receive their diagnosis. They’ll be able to file a claim online or via the Brella app in minutes. Once approved, they’ll be paid by Venmo, PayPal, or directly to their bank account within hours, not weeks. 

And we didn’t just make things easy for your employees. Implementation, enrollment, and ongoing administration are 100% paperless, so employers can offer superior supplemental coverage without administrative headaches.  

Together, these changes can put your employees on the path to becoming healthier, more financially supported, and ultimately more productive. That’s not only good news for them — it’s good for your company’s bottom line, too.

If you’d like to learn more about Brella, have your broker get in touch with us at today.

Jumpstart Your 2021 Employee Health Benefits With Off-Cycle Enrollment

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance | January 20, 2021

In the midst of the economic uncertainty of 2020, many businesses hesitated to make major changes to their employee health benefits programs for the 2021 plan year. With employees deferring certain healthcare services to 2021 and the pandemic raging on, we’re entering a year when the ongoing risks and pent up demand for healthcare have never been higher.

For the average family with a deductible and cost-sharing responsibilities, that means medical bills are in the not-too-distant future. Are your employees prepared for that?

Naturally, the coronavirus pandemic has intensified these financial concerns for employees — especially those who reviewed their employee benefits and made elections months ago. They may be unprepared to manage the cost-sharing required by their health plan if they have an unexpected health issue in 2021.

Will you leave them in this situation until 2022?

Rather than waiting, smart benefits advisors and employers are making changes now to improve their employer-sponsored health benefits. Here’s why:

1. Financially stressed employees are less productive.

An illness or injury can happen at any time, and until the majority of our communities are vaccinated, COVID-19 continues to pose a threat. As the year unfolds and the pandemic continues, employees may realize that they selected a plan during the 2020 health insurance enrollment period that leaves them too financially exposed should they need healthcare. Some employees may already have medical bills stacking up, and their financial stress makes them less productive and more likely to be absent from work. 

Smart employers are recognizing this need and working with their brokers to identify solutions, even if it means introducing a new benefit outside of the annual open enrollment period.

2. New benefits can prevent or alleviate financial stress.

Unfortunately, financial stress among employees is real. In fact, 50% of U.S. adults fear bankruptcy due to a major health event. That’s a heartbreaking statistic but one that can be addressed with new benefits designed to prevent or alleviate financial stress.

Brella’s supplemental health insurance plan is one example. Our simple supplemental plan pays cash on diagnosis for any of the 13,000+ covered conditions. It’s designed to help ease the burden of the up-front out-of-pocket costs families must pay with most health insurance plans. 

In addition, financial tools such as HSAs and salary-linked loans can help employees avoid going into debt or borrow responsibly if necessary. Salary-linked loans, such as those from Salary Finance, can even help employees improve their credit so they can finish 2021 in a better financial position. 

3. Off-cycle enrollment can lead to better employee engagement.

Without the noise that comes with the annual open enrollment period, introducing a new employee benefit off-cycle gives employees a better opportunity to learn about the benefit and make a decision that works best for their situation. Plus, a new benefit that starts off-cycle means employees will already be familiar with the program come next Open Enrollment. 

Brella was built to make enrollment a snap no matter what time of year you introduce us to your team. Our standalone enrollment platform, Brella Enroll, provides an end-to-end online education and enrollment experience. In just a few clicks, employees can learn how Brella works and personalize their benefits to meet their individual needs.

Brella makes off-cycle enrollment easy.

Adding Brella off-cycle gives your employees the opportunity to supplement their health benefits at a time when the risks have never been higher. What’s more, our supplemental health insurance plan standardly covers many conditions related to COVID-19*, such as pneumonia, respiratory distress, and respiratory failure. That brings peace of mind so employees can focus on doing their best work.

Health-related benefits are valued above all other employee benefits, so an easy-to-use supplemental health insurance plan will support your employee retention efforts. Don’t let “we missed the open-enrollment window” stand in the way of providing benefits that employees will appreciate. It’s never the wrong time to bring employees much-needed peace of mind. Instead of waiting, strengthen your employee benefits package with off-cycle enrollment in a robust supplemental health plan that meets employees’ needs now when they need it most.

If you’d like to learn more about Brella, have your broker get in touch with us at today.

*Please note that a COVID-19 diagnosis is not a covered condition. However, as described above, associated medical conditions may be covered.

This Isn’t Your Grandma’s Supplemental Health Insurance Plan

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Insurance Officer, Brella | January 13, 2021

As brokers and employers know all too well, the cost of employee health benefits is rising, and this frightful trend doesn’t show signs of stopping. To cope with rising premiums, health plans have shifted costs to the employee via deductibles, contributing to a nearly 800% rise in the average employee’s deductible over the past 25 years. Compare that to only 18% wage growth during the same period, and you can see the crisis that’s at a breaking point for American families. It’s no wonder interest in supplemental health insurance is growing.

Supplemental health insurance plans exist to help offset the out-of-pocket costs that fall to employees and their families when injuries or illnesses strike. Theoretically, supplementing employee health benefits this way gives employers more flexibility in their health benefits strategy and provides better coverage that can help them attract and retain talented employees.

The problem with today’s supplemental health insurance plans

In reality, employees are often disappointed to find that supplemental health insurance plans don’t adequately offset their healthcare costs or don’t cover what they expected. Why? Accident plans cover accidents, but not illnesses. Critical Illness plans only cover a small list of the most dangerous or life-threatening conditions— but if an employee gets a serious illness that isn’t on the list, it’s not covered. And hospital indemnity plans only provide coverage if an employee is admitted to the hospital. These limitations negatively impact the value of these benefits, too often leaving employees and their families in the lurch with medical bills that exceed their savings.

Asking employees to choose between supplemental health insurance plans like accident or critical illness policies forces them to guess and gamble on which type of health issue they might face in the coming year. No one knows what will happen in the future, and employees shouldn’t have to cross their fingers.

On top of this, today’s supplemental health plan options aren’t known for being easy to use. To file a claim, employees are required to complete long and confusing forms. Meanwhile, employers and brokers struggle to find time to implement and administer multiple plans on top of medical, dental, vision, disability, and life insurance.

How we built a better supplemental health insurance plan

We had these issues in mind when we set out to build the best supplemental insurance plan on the market. Here’s how we did it.

First, we solved the issue of coverage.

Rather than just covering accidents or hospitalizations, Brella covers more than 13,000 injuries and illnesses in one simple plan. Employees can choose the level of coverage they need to help offset the burden of their health insurance deductible, cost-sharing, and any other expenses that come up on the road to recovery.

Then, we simplified the rules.

Brella is a guaranteed issue plan with no pre-existing condition exclusions, and we pay benefits based simply on the diagnosis. There are no covered accident or hospitalization requirements. That means employees can access their benefits as soon as a licensed provider diagnoses their condition—not weeks later when a bill or EOB comes in the mail. If it’s a covered condition diagnosed by a licensed provider, their Brella plan will pay. It’s that simple. 

Next, we used technology to make it easy to file a claim.

Brella is 100% paperless! Our innovative plan design opened the door for technology to make claims easy. Employees can log in and file a claim by uploading photos of their documents, hospital wristbands, prescriptions—even a photo of their cast straight from their smartphone. They can even do it before they leave the point of care. Plus, our game-changing technology allows us to pay claims within hours— not weeks! Read more about how we made it easy to file a claim.

And we didn’t forget about the employer. We made Brella easy to implement and administer.

We know change is never easy and brokers and employers can’t take advantage of a new plan if it’s difficult to implement, enroll, and administer. Our process is completely paperless, and employees can enroll on our standalone enrollment platform, which offers the convenience of self-serve enrollment with white-glove support from our Brella Concierge team. Want to use an existing benefits administration platform? We can support that, too.

Yes, we’re different, and that’s a good thing! But don’t miss the forest for the trees. 

Brella’s supplemental health insurance brings peace of mind.

With wide-ranging coverage that truly complements their employer-sponsored health insurance, Brella members can get the healthcare they need with less worry that their savings will be decimated by medical bills. With fast financial relief from Brella, members can focus on their recovery. That means better health, and better health is priceless.

If you’re an employer in Texas, ask your broker about Brella. Brokers can email to request a quote, kick the tires, and ask all the questions about our supplemental health insurance plan.

Better Benefits Podcast Episode #1: How to Build a Better Benefit

At Brella, we’re on a mission to build a world where health hardships don’t create financial burdens. Fortunately, a lot of good people beyond our company are also working toward this goal using employee benefits. We’re building a better supplemental health plan, but exciting new things are happening in major medical, dental, HSA’s, and other products all across the industry. We thought it was time for an employee benefits podcast to host conversations about what we can do together to ease the financial burden of health issues.

Better Benefits is a new employee benefits podcast for employers, benefits advisors, brokers, and insurance experts who are ready to do things differently to help bring down costs for employers, employees, and their families.

In our inaugural episode, listen as our founding team shares how we built our revolutionary supplemental health insurance plan. You’ll also get a preview of what’s in store for the Better Benefits podcast.

Listen to Better Benefits Episode 1: Why Better Benefits

Better Benefits Podcast Episode #1 Show Notes

Maxwell Health founder, Veer Gidwaney, spent over a decade thinking about how to make benefits and insurance simpler for employers and their teams. Despite Maxwell Health’s success, something still wasn’t working. 

Employer-sponsored benefits are still the primary way American families cover the cost of healthcare. Yet, half of Americans today fear medical-related bankruptcy, and health insurance deductibles are at an all time high. Traditional supplemental plans only cover narrow groups of serious illnesses, and they have covered-accident or hospital admission requirements that limit their benefits. 

As a result, too many employees with insurance run the risk of having to pay large out-of-pocket medical bills the first time they have a health issue every year. Too often, these bills exceed their savings, leading to financial hardship. 

That’s when Veer founded Brella and was introduced to Amanda Turcotte, who became our Chief Insurance Officer. Together, they set out to build a better benefit that could help ease the financial burden that too often comes along when health hardship strikes. 

It started in the fall of 2019 with a 6:30am text message.

An early bird herself, Amanda was more than happy to talk to Veer about designing a better supplemental benefit.

Amanda brought years of experience underwriting and designing new insurance products for major insurers like Guardian, Chubb, and AXA. More recently, she was a partner at a startup and owned her own consulting company in which she practiced human-centered design to better understand consumer problems. 

Armed with research and plenty of personal experience with her own family, Amanda set out to design a new kind of supplemental plan that would cover the vast majority of reasons someone would need urgent medical attention, from moderate conditions like pneumonia to catastrophic conditions like cancer. The new plan also allows employees to personalize their coverage to suit their family’s age, health plan and budget.

Then COVID-19 struck 

After designing the plan in 2019 and submitting it to the Texas Department of Insurance, COVID-19 sent communities all over the world into lockdown. Although we designed the plan before we knew about the novel coronavirus, Brella covers many common complications of the disease, including pneumonia, acute respiratory failure, and sepsis. Brella is the only supplemental plan that can help ease the financial burden of complications of COVID-19 with no hospital admission requirement. 

In this episode, Veer and Amanda share the highs and lows of building an insurance product from the ground up. They also reveal their best leadership advice for managing change and asking for what you want. 

We ask all our guests to share a resource or book that had a profound impact on them either personally or professionally. Amanda recommends Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock, which is being re-released in early 2021.

We hope you’ll join us

Future guests include former Segment President at Humana, Beth Bierbower, former President of Group Protection Business at Lincoln Financial, Dick Mucci, and Dave Chase of Health Rosetta.

You can follow Better Benefits on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. If you liked the episode, give us a rating on your favorite podcast platform and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode! Stay tuned!

3 Strategies for Employers to Supercharge Health Benefits for 2021

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance

Half of Americans now fear a health-related bankruptcy, including employees with employer-sponsored health insurance. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is driving health insurance rate increases for 2021 as insurers struggle to predict whether we’ll see a second wave of infections and whether care deferred in 2020 will drive up utilization in 2021.

In light of these realities, employers need new benefit solutions that both ease employees’ fears and help their business cope with the rising cost of employee benefits. This is exactly why we reinvented supplemental health insurance at Brella.

Brella is a new breed of supplemental insurance that covers 13,000+ medical conditions, including many complications of COVID-19. We make it easy for employees to file a claim and once approved receive a cash payout in as little as 72 hours. While traditional voluntary options cover narrow groups of conditions, we eliminate the guesswork by giving employees the peace of mind that comes with broad coverage in one plan.


But what about the second challenge? How can employers cope with the rising cost of health benefits?

After hundreds of conversations with brokers and employers leading up to our launch in Texas, three strategies are gaining traction with HR benefit leaders and their broker advisors.

1. Implement a supplemental plan that truly complements the health plan strategy

You’re probably thinking this isn’t a new strategy. You’re right. But it’s never been more clear that brokers and employers appreciate the flexibility and cost-savings that a supplemental plan can unlock when it comes to the overall health plan strategy. It’s also no secret that with a sound supplemental health option, employees are far more comfortable choosing higher deductible health plans with lower premiums knowing they have added protection in the event of an unexpected sickness or injury.

So what’s standing in the way?

Traditional voluntary benefits like accident, critical illness or hospital indemnity are simply too narrow in their design to provide the broad supplemental coverage needed to unlock real value. To reap the financial savings of a higher deductible or out-of-pocket maximum, employers need a supplemental plan that covers more than just an accident or a critical illness. Medical issues come in all shapes and sizes and many fall through the cracks with old-school supplemental offerings.

Brella was built to be an extension of the health plan. With over 13,000 covered conditions in one product, brokers and employers have a supplemental solution that unlocks meaningful health plan design and funding flexibility.

2. Shift a portion of employer HSA dollars toward a supplemental health plan.

More and more employers are making contributions to employee HSA accounts with an average contribution of $768 for single coverage. However, this equates to only 17% of the typical employee out-of-pocket maximum1. So it begs the question, could a supplemental health plan stretch the employer dollar further for employees and their families in the event of an unexpected medical event?

Employer-funded supplemental health isn’t a new concept, but it’s a challenging one. First, there’s the difficult task of finding room in the employer’s budget. Second, there’s the guesswork needed to pick between distinct products like accident, critical illness or hospital indemnity insurance. Shifting a portion of the employer’s existing HSA spend solves for the budget concern, while installing a wide-ranging Brella plan eliminates the product guessing game.

Employers will appreciate that redirecting $300 of HSA contributions toward Brella’s premiums can turn into a $500 benefit for a broken wrist or $5,000 for a heart attack2 all in one plan. Plus, Brella’s broad insurance coverage provides the flexibility to use benefits in any way the employee chooses, with no annual limits or risk of not having enough funds.

3. Retire underutilized benefits to make room for a supplemental health plan.

Early signs seem to indicate that employers will face difficult choices when it comes to health plan design and cost-sharing considerations in 2021. As a result, many are opting to simplify their benefit packages to prioritize health coverage.

This is a good plan as employee retention has long been tied to health plan satisfaction. The upcoming year certainly has the makings of being one where employees will place greater value on the benefits that address their health insurance concerns and provide additional peace of mind.

Has there been a better time to think about rounding out health coverage for employees? Probably not. And although it may mean freeing up shelf space by retiring underutilized programs, a Brella supplemental plan gives employees more comprehensive health coverage during a time when fears are high and costs have never been higher.

  1. Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey.
    2. Note, these are the payout amounts for one of many Brella plan configurations. Actual benefit amounts may be higher or lower.

What is Supplemental Insurance?

It’s no secret that healthcare costs continue to soar. And even with good health insurance, illnesses and injuries can impact your wallet in a major way. Between higher health insurance deductibles, copays, and out of pocket maximums, you can expect to be on the hook for a number of healthcare-related costs that will really add up.

Since traditional health insurance plans don’t cover everything in full when you’re sick or injured, insurance companies have ramped up their sales of other products that aim to offset the cost of medical care. These types of plans are known as supplemental health insurance plans.

Now, you may be wondering: What is supplemental health insurance?

How does supplemental health insurance work?

Supplemental health insurance plans help offset the cost of out-of-pocket medical expenses that aren’t paid in full by your health insurance plan — which is why you may need supplemental health insurance. These expenses can include copays, coinsurance, or the costs you’re responsible for before reaching your deductible. They can also be basic expenses like transportation or childcare costs associated with recovery.

There are typically three types of supplemental health insurance:

  1. Accident Insurance may pay a lump-sum benefit if you are injured in a covered accident. Payouts vary based on the type of injury you suffer, the treatment you need, and the coverage you purchased.
  2. Critical Illness Insurance may pay a lump-sum benefit if you are diagnosed with a serious illness. Payouts vary based on the diagnosis and the coverage you purchased. Most plans only include coverage for a limited number of specific illnesses.
  3. Hospital Indemnity Insurance may pay a lump-sum benefit if an illness or injury results in hospital admission, emergency room treatment, and daily hospital confinement. Payouts vary based on a number of factors including treatment and the coverage you purchased.

In order to receive a payment through one of these supplemental health insurance plans, you must purchase coverage for each one separately and then meet each of the policy’s requirements. Unless you have coverage under all three, your protection is limited. And even if you have all three, policy restrictions will likely leave you with gaps in coverage. This means that you—the consumer—are often left disappointed that the insurance you pay for doesn’t quite cover what you thought.

Where traditional supplemental health insurance plans get it wrong

Supplemental health insurance plans are in need of a major update. They were created decades ago when the healthcare landscape was very different. Plan deductibles and treatment costs were lower and most health insurance plans covered more. And they were created with a great deal of complexity — three separate products all with different benefit triggers and policy requirements.

This complexity also means a frustrating and cumbersome claims process. Claims are often denied due to the fine print and unclear policy provisions. And if you’re looking for additional support, you can expect long hold times paired with frustrating customer service. With so many hoops to jump through, supplemental insurance can be more stressful than helpful in times of need. Where’s the benefit in that?

Meet the modern supplemental health insurance plan, Brella.

We’ve updated the old model of supplemental health insurance and simplified the experience from start to finish. Brella is a simple, comprehensive benefit that sends you fast cash when you are sick or injured. Brella covers a much larger list of conditions than the typical old-fashioned supplemental health insurance plans. And we’re built for speed! No more paper forms, faxes, and multi-step claim processes. Brella sends you the cash you need quickly through our mobile app.

So how does Brella work?

Brella is simple. We built one plan that covers 13,000+ conditions that would require urgent medical care. Brella pays based on your diagnosis, and those payouts are based on the severity of your condition. We think about conditions in three categories:

  1. Moderate conditions that require a short visit to the ER or urgent care and typically don’t require surgery can receive up to $800 from Brella.
  2. Severe conditions that often require surgery or more intensive treatment can receive up to $3,000 from Brella.
  3. Catastrophic conditions that are life-threatening and require immediate medical intervention and longer recovery can receive up to $10,000 from Brella.

The more serious the condition, the more we pay out. It’s that simple. Plus, you have the option to customize your payouts to suit your family’s needs.

A member experience that’s easy

With our mobile app you’re always connected to Brella. Our technology is built around photos, not faxes. Send us a photo of your discharge papers or related documents on your way out of the ER to kickstart your claim process. We’ll take it from there and, once approved, send your cash in hours. Use your Brella mobile app to stay up to speed on what’s covered, check your claim status, interact with real humans, and much more.