Change Agents: Achieving Healthcare Equity

Equity (ĕk’wĭ-tē) n.

1.The state, quality, or ideal of being just, impartial, and fair.
2. Justice applied in circumstances covered by law yet influenced by principles of ethics and fairness.

The second profile in my ongoing review of vanguard Health 2.0 companies spotlights Utah-based HealthEquity. The company was founded in 2003 by my medical school classmate Steve Neeleman, a board certified general surgeon (we also both attended residency programs at the same school), and kid brother of Jet Blue founder David Neeleman. Rose and Gary should be proud of their boys, who have always sought to make the world a better place with their combination of insight, innovation, and intrepidness. While David is currently much more well known, Steve is an very successful entrepreneur in his own right (the only medical student I know who built an all-inclusive guest ranch resort between classes, surgical cases, and call shifts), a rising healthcare star, and future political candidate.


In the most simple terms, HealthEquity is an HSA bank that provides value added financial and healthcare advisory services to its members. The concept of HealthEquity was germinated in the heat of living, breathing, and experiencing the challenges of actual healthcare delivery. Steve and I spent many a call night discussing the incredible inequity and injustice that are rampant within our current healthcare system. My approach to this problem was to improve the collection, measurement, and management of healthcare information through pervasive electronic health record, while Steve wanted to approach the financial aspect and the arbitrage environment created by a third party payer system. A series of fortunate legislative events around the turn of the century enabled the creation more powerful HSA’s, which serves as the foundational financial instrument of the HealthEquity platform.

This post will not take the time to describe the myriad advantages of HSA’s (Steve also authored a book on this subject), but will highlight that the HSA market is projected to grow exponentially over the next five years as consumer finally take greater control of their healthcare, become more educated on the value of HSA’s, and legislation continues to improve the tax advantages of these accounts. In a nutshell, HealthEquity serves as the financial custodian of the HSA account where members can deposit their money pretax and provides a range of financial services including a debit card, credit for medical expenses, and a generous savings rate. In addition HealthEquity has partnered with Charles Schwab to provide members with the full range of financial investment options of the leading discount brokerage house.

From the Health Equity Company Information page.

If this was all HealthEquity did, it would be a competitive and attractive option compared with other HSA banks. However, HealthEquity takes it to the next level by offering a full range of Healthcare Advisory Services including 24 hour nurse line, comparative pricing of prescription drugs and medical procedures, self-diagnostic tools, and bill negotiation services. Their objective is to “help our members better spend and save their healthcare money by enabling consumer-empowered healthcare to work through elegant technology, flawless administration, and extraordinary Health and Equity Advisory Services available 24/7”. Several recent hires, including Tamara Hall from Health Dialogue and Cathy Cather from Health Allies (a United Healthcare Company), are indicative of the talent Healthequity is recruiting and the direction the company is moving in creating further differentiation and ongoing value for members. In essence, HealthEquity is following the financial advisory service model of an American Express, but with a healthcare twist.

HealthEquity is onto something big: “empowering consumers to make rational healthcare choices while optimizing their financial health“. This is exactly the type of value add “experience” that the next generation of companies will provide in the new Health 2.0 world.


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Filed under Change Agents, Health 2.0

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