Bezos, Dell, Carey want health insurance dead

Matt Bowman · April 28, 2010 · Short URL:

Unlikely trio pour $6 million into startup that eliminates insurance companies from primary care.

Laughter may be the best medicine, but comedian Drew Carey is also offering cold hard cash to help solve the country's medical woes. The host of the Price is Right has formed an unlikely triumverate with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Dell Computer founder Michael Dell, all of whom contributed to a $6 million funding round for Qliance Medical Management, a Seattle-based startup that hopes to disrupt the healthcare industry by taking insurance companies out of the equation for primary care. This round brings the three-year-old startup's total funding to $13.5 million.

The company charges patients a monthly fee--$44 for minors to $84 to senior--for basic primary care that includes check ups, vaccinations, x-rays, women's health exams and other services, according to TechFlash. No copays, no insurance premiums, no health care statements.The money goes straight to the three clinics Qliance operates in Washington State. Time that the 13 doctors and nurse practitioners on staff would normally dedicate to insurance paperwork can instead go to patients.

Members will still want insurance for catastrophic events--anything that could require surgery or other specialist care, for example, but on the whole they save money, according to Qliance. CEO Norm Wu says that about 40% of the primary care costs at traditional healthcare providers go to processing insurance claims.

About 70 employers in Washington state have signed up since the company started accepting payments directly from business and self-insured plans that couple Qliance's offering with insurance for catastrophic events. Wu says these corporate customers achieve 20 to 50% savings.

Bezos, Carey and Dell all came in contact with the company through connections to Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist who was an early backer of Amazon. There involvement should help garner attention for the 60-person company. 

One of Qliance's clinics in downtown Seattle is operating at a profit, according to Wu, who plans to tap the buesiness acument of his new investors to help replicate that success elsewhere.

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