Gravie is a 2021 Inc. Best in Business winner. With the second annual Best in Business, Inc. award recognizes companies that have had an outstanding impact on their industries, communities, environment and society as a whole.
You’re not alone if you don’t like your health insurance provider. After all, the industry ranks third in net customer satisfaction scores, just above the monopoly industries of Internet services and cable television.
Marek Ciolko and Abir Sen saw all this discontent as an opportunity. In 2013, they co-founded Gravie, a healthcare benefits marketplace, with the goal of creating a user-friendly business that also offers great coverage.
Fast forward to 2021, and Ciolko and Sen are well on their way to accomplishing that mission. Minneapolis-based Gravie allows employers to set budgets for their employees, who in turn can choose the plans that work best for them and their families. Last year, the company launched its piece de resistance, Comfort, a benefits plan that provides 100% coverage of common services – including primary care, specialist visits, lab work, imaging and generic prescriptions – at a cost comparable to most insurance plans, but with no co-payments or deductibles.
Co-CEOs Ciolko and Sen say they aimed to create the Comfort plan from the early days of Gravie. They sought to design a benefits package aimed at generally healthy people – a population that tends not to get the most out of their health insurance plans.
“A lot of people are disappointed with their insurance coverage,” says Ciolko. “They don’t feel like they’re getting anything for all the money they’ve spent, because every time they have to use the healthcare system, they’re being asked for more money.”
Ciolko and Sen previously co-founded another health care company, Bloom Health, and sold it in 2012. The expertise gained from that experience proved useful. Gravie’s team of medical professionals spent years developing the Comfort plan, which required serious calculations and intimate knowledge of a complex industry. In some cases, the team rewrote claims adjudication systems, which determine an insurance company’s liability in covering a medical bill, from scratch.
The result is a plan that has so far saved the average customer $100 a month in out-of-pocket expenses, according to Ciolko. Of course, it’s not designed for everyone. Those with high annual medical bills – and therefore prefer lower maximum expenses – will have high monthly premiums and struggle to make sense of the calculations. But for relatively healthy people, it could be a game-changer.
“A $10,000 deductible almost feels like there’s no benefit,” Ciolko says. “These are real benefits that you can use from day one.”
Between the Comfort plan and Gravie’s insurance marketplace, the company has connected more than 100,000 people with benefits from 1,500 employers, including Indeed Brewing Company and professional services firm Pinnacle Services. Gravie has $77 million in funding from investors including GE Ventures, Split Rock Partners and AXA Venture Partners.
While the financial success of his business has been, well, gravy, Ciolko says what makes him happiest is allowing people to make potentially life-saving preventative visits without worrying about costs.
“People tell us all the time that being able to take care of their health without pushing them to the brink of bankruptcy has changed their lives,” he says. Indeed it would be.
Clarification: An earlier version of this article identified co-founder Marek Ciolko as CEO. Abir Sen was recently named co-CEO, alongside Ciolko, and the article has been updated to reflect this change.
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Excerpt from the winter 2021/2022 issue of Inc. Magazine