Cleveland Clinic partners with startup Oscar to offer insurance in Ohio

What's the state of Obamacare right now?
What's the state of Obamacare right now?

Oscar Health has a new partner that holds a lot of weight in the world of healthcare: Cleveland Clinic.

On Thursday, the two businesses announced that they'll work together to offer individual health insurance plans to consumers in five counties in northeast Ohio.

The new plan, which is slated to be available both on and off the Obamacare exchanges, will give members access to facilities operated by Cleveland Clinic.

Coverage is expected to begin in 2018.

It's an important deal for Oscar Health, the startup cofounded by Joshua Kushner, the brother of Jared Kushner, who's President Donald Trump's son-in-law.

Oscar -- founded in 2012 and now valued at $2.7 billion -- piggybacked off the new markets created by the Affordable Care Act, selling individual insurance directly to consumers. It aimed to upend healthcare, promising all the perks of a tech startup: Members can book appointments, see lab results, manage bills and share medical history all through its app.

Related: Why disrupting health care can be tricky

Cleveland Clinic's health system includes its main academic medical center, 10 regional hospitals and more than 150 clinics in northern Ohio.

Because the new plan will only include Cleveland Clinic's locations, it doesn't help many in Ohio who could be left with no Obamacare options next year because Anthem is pulling out of the exchange.

Still, an Oscar spokesperson said it expects "several thousand" people to enroll and that the company is confident prices will be "very competitive." Regulators are still in the process of reviewing final rates.

It is a precarious time for the industry, with House Republicans passing a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But after losses topping $204 million in 2016, Oscar has been making recent strides to diversify its business.

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Cleveland Clinic and Oscar will split the profit and the risk. In other words, the two are incentivized to work together to keep patients as healthy as possible. The goal is to leverage the partnership, as well as technology and data, to deliver more complete care.

oscar exam room
Inside Oscar's Brooklyn clinic, it's first brick-and-mortar health center.

"As you take better care of people, you will begin to reduce the overall cost of healthcare," said Cleveland Clinic Chief of Staff Brian Donley, M.D. in a statement.

Members of the new insurance offering will have access to virtual doctors visits as well as all of Oscar's technology to help understand care options and costs.

Oscar CEO and cofounder Mario Schlosser said in a blog post that the company is devoted to choosing select partners to provide the best care for its members. "It's only through this kind of deep integration with our provider partners that we can ensure members get the care they need in the clinical setting they need."

In December, for example, the company opened up its first brick-and-mortar doctor's office for members in New York City as part of a new partnership with Mount Sinai Health System. In April, the company also introduced insurance plans for employers.

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