Startup targets underserved supplemental-healthcare niche

In the market for roughly a year, discount health services provider SingleCare is creating a way for consumers to shop for prescriptions and medical services in a transparent, online marketplace, with the goal of lowering costs and removing administrative difficulties, says CEO and industry veteran Rick Bates.

In founding SingleCare, Bates drew from his 20-plus years of experience at many of the nation’s largest healthcare firms. He wants consumers to think of SingleCare as a retail marketplace where they can access the website, shop products and services that are needed; and find those products and services within the client’s location.

“We publish pricing for either the services [consumers] know they are going to get, or expect to get,” Bates says. “I make that distinction because sometimes consumers know exactly what they are seeing a doctor for and then other times they have symptoms and they are not sure exactly what things will cost, so we want give some visibility into the cost of services they can expect.”

Rick Bates Use
Rick Bates

Target niche

SingleCare focuses on the underinsured or non-covered services that may be out of a plan’s network. Examples of these services include physical therapy or mental health treatments.

“On the pharmacy side, whether a consumer does have a plan or does not, there are a significant number of businesses in the company that are ‘cash pay,’” Bates says. “There are roughly about 400 million prescriptions filled a year that are cash pay prescriptions where people are trying to find the best price in the marketplace from the retail pharmacies.”

SingleCare does not charge a fee to shop on its platform. Instead, Bates says he charges a transaction fee into the cost of the goods or services purchased. “The price that is published to the consumer is the price that they pay,” Bates says.

SingleCare also handles the entire transaction and payment plans in house, Bates says. This means when a consumer attends an appointment for a service purchased off SingleCare, the transaction is handled at the time of the appointment and then the consumer will be notified of a payment plan they are directed to follow after the service has been completed.

“I think our model fits with what I believe to be a disruptive and unique solution in the marketplace,” Bates says. “We are coming at the market from within the system and not trying to be disruptive by hammering from the outside to change the way physicians work or change the way HR directors purchase benefits.”

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