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Neighborhood competition in the health care market

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Health care systems are competing in the market around both price and quality. Nonprofit health co-ops are struggling to provide affordable insurance coverage, while for-profits are also trying to keep business afloat under new federal laws.

In Oregon, health insurers will be raising premiums next year. But one for-profit company, recently launched in Portland, is going lower. Zoom Performance Health Insurance offers what  it calls “a full stack” of care in neighborhood clinics. Naturopathic doctor Natasha Kassam give a tour of the Zoom Performance clinic in downtown Portland, which looks more like  a furniture showroom with gym equipment than a primary care center.

So when somebody comes in for the very first time, they actually have their annual exam,” said Kassam. “But we have taken that and hijacked the process.”

Patients receive athletic assessments, brain performance exercises and even cooking classes. It’s all covered under Zoom Performance Health Insurance.

The new for-profit company has been compared to health plan Kaiser Permanente. That’s because both Kaiser and Zoom are insurers and providers, and offer low rates, hovering around $270 per month for a silver plan. But not-for-profit Kaiser Permanente points out it serves a broader demographic.

“We’re trying to look at the entire community, as well as the 65 or 70-year-old Medicare member,” said Keith Forrester, vice president of marketing at Kaiser.

Zoom doesn’t accept Medicare or Medicaid. It’s too early to say if it’s cherry-picking young, healthy consumers to cut costs, said David Rosenfeld of the Oregon consumer watchdog group OSPIRG.  I think it’s very reasonable to argue that Zoom’s model of care would more naturally appeal to younger people,” Rosenfeld said.

That model is urban and mobile-app driven. Backed by Portland firm Endeavour Capital, Zoom has created a network of 31 clinics where patients can experience health care, through beautiful retail experiences in your neighborhood, like you do with the rest of your life, whether it’s your food or shopping. That’s where we see healthcare going,” said Zoom CEO Dave Sanders.

Fiona Ferguson, with animal care company Hannah the Pet Society, chose Zoom for her employees because she said it’s modern and convenient. You can go into the clinic very quickly and easily and have almost all your services taken care of,” Ferguson said.

Kaiser serves more than half a million patients in the Pacific Northwest.  Zoom has urgent care clinics that serve a quarter of million, but the company said it doesn’t have figures yet for the insurance program it launched earlier this year. 

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