Oscar lays out six-state strategy for 2018, adding Ohio, Tennessee

By Jonah Comstock

Oscar Health plans to expand the reach of its innovative, tech-savvy insurance plan into six states in 2018. Pending regulatory approval from the states, the move will include the service's return to New Jersey, where it pulled out last year, expansions in existing markets, and brand new launches in Tennessee and Ohio (via the previously announced Cleveland Clinic partnership).

It's a surprisingly bold move for a company whose business model depends on the exchanges established in the Affordable Care Act, which could be repealed as soon as next week. In a blog post announcing the expansion, Oscar CEO Mario Schlosser addressed the elephant in the room.

"Why seek to expand in a time of uncertainty? We're confident that when the dust settles, the market for health insurance will stabilize in time for 2018," he wrote. "For all of the political noise, there are simply too many lives at stake for representatives in Washington, DC not to do what's right for the people."

Oscar's return to New Jersey comes much sooner than expected, especially since Schlosser said when the company pulled out that he was "look[ing] forward to seeing the individual market stabilize" so that Oscar could serve more markets. It's hard to imagine that Oscar considers the market more stable than it was in 2016.

'We were privileged to serve individual Oscar members in New Jersey for two years in 2015 and 2016, and said last summer that we always hoped to return," Schlosser wrote this week. "Today, we have filed for approval to form a new New Jersey insurance company through which we hope to offer New Jerseyans located in 14 counties a competitive, quality product in 2018 for both Oscar for Business, our employer plans, and our individual products on and off the exchanges. It is our goal to be able to offer strong regional network coverage to New Jersey employers enrolled in Oscar for Business by including access to our New York network."

Oscar is not returning to the Dallas-Fort Worth market, which it pulled out of at the same time it left New Jersey. Instead, the Texas expansion will take Oscar into Austin and expand its existing operations in San Antonio. In California the company plans to expand into east Los Angeles County, while its plans for New York don't include any new markets.

The Ohio expansion is being done in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, as we reported last week. As well as offering telemedicine, Cleveland Clinic and Oscar Health will integrate their clinical and consumer care approaches. Every member who signs up in Cuyahoga, Summit, Lorain, Medina or Lake county will be matched with a Cleveland Clinic care team consisting of a primary care provider, physician assistants and other allied health professionals, as well as an Oscar Health concierge team made up of a nurse and three care guides.

Finally, Tennessee is a completely new market for the company. Initially, the company is targeting Nashville.

"Nashville is laying claim to its status as the country's capital in health care technology and innovation, and always seemed like a natural fit for Oscar," Schlosser wrote. "While it's a completely new market for us, we'll be working closely with regulators to see if we can deliver a competitive product in Nashville's individual market, and are filing for expansion there in 2018."