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In Obamacare, tech t entrepr e reneur r envis sions a new Expedia

Source:hCe entive


When th he Affordable Care Act t was being g debated in n Congress s, most Americans yawned if they even bothered reading the e bill's fine printbut t technology y entreprene eur Sanjay Singh's S eye es opened wide w when he downloa aded the pr roposed leg gislation. As he re ead the bill closely, one e section of it drew Sin ngh's attention. "It talk ked about individua al state exc changes. It talked abou ut a federall data hub," " he said. Now Sin ngh's techno ology comp pany hCent tive is reap ping a majo or windfall helping bu uild online health insura ance excha anges for se everal state es, enabling g insurance e companies to connect with all 51 governmen nt-run exch hanges, and d moving to o exploit the e new but potentially large pri ivate insura ance exchange market t. Singh sa aid the idea a of insuran nce plans ba attling in an n online ma arket for millions of custome ers sounded d like "Expe edia for hea alth care." "How do o you build an Expedia a for health care?" the CEO of hC Centive reca alled thinkin ng.

He knew w it would re equire a tec chnology pl latform, and d since ope ening in 200 09 with a handful of employe ees, Reston n, Va.-based d hCentive is on track k to hire its 5 500th work ker this year r. "The AC CAObama acare as it has becom me known has been the driving f force for ou ur inception n and grow wth," said Singh. "If I were to gues ss, I would say we'd be e at maybe e 600 [employees] by the e end of 201 14," he said d. The comp pany expec cts to generate about $35 million in n revenue next n year. (Read more m : Ignor rance of Ob bamacare threatens its succes ss) When Singh spoke e to CNBC, he and his employees s were scra ambling to g get a slew o of work done before Oct. O 1the date when n the Obam acare exch hanges are set to begin enrolling g people in insurance plans that take t effect iin January. "Right outside my door d there is a reverse e counting c clock," Sing gh said. A marrie ed 46-year-old with two o kids, Sing gh had expe erience wit th a technol logy-based start-up before foun nding hCen ntive. He co-fo ounded soft tware servic ces company GlobalL Logic in 19 999 "in my b basement," Singh sa aid. Fourteen n years late er, GlobalLo ogic has mo ore than 7, 000 employ yees. (Read more m : Obam macare quirk: Your in nsurance c costs could d go up)

Santelli: The fight to defund Obamacare O

CNBC's Ric ck Santelli talks with Daniel Ste ecich, TJM Instit tutional Services s, about the loo oming fight on C Capitol Hill to fun nd the Affordable Care C Act.

In addition to his te ech backgro ound, Singh h said he ha as a "deep" " interest in public policy issues. "I just love it," Singh said. "I'm m a public po olicy geek. This is my fantasy foo otball." Those government g t-run exchanges, also known as m marketplace es, will give e uninsured d people a place to buy b affordab ble, compre ehensive he ealth insura ance from a range of competing plans. Many M of those people would w be elligible for ta ax credits to o offset the cost of the insurance, an nd would have their in ncomes ver rified via the e federal da ata hub.
Singh sai id the idea of f building suc ch a platform was particularly attractiv ve to him bec cause the exchange es were effec ctively virgin territory.

"You normally want to start a business in n a new are ea," he said. "It levels t the playing field for an en ntrepreneur r going aga ainst the big g companie es. ... We go ot started b because we e thought exchanges s would be a big oppor rtunity." (Read more m : How businesses can prep pare for the e next San ndy)

Source:hCe entive

Homepag geforastatebased b exchang ge.

"Three, or four, five years from now, down the road, all the systems are going to look very differently from the way they did on day one."
Sanjay Singh, hCentive CEO

In addition to helping implement the state-run exchanges in New York, Colorado and Kentucky, hCentive recently was awarded a contract to work with Illinois, which plans to run its own exchange in 2015 after letting the federal government operate the exchange there in 2014. And there is room for hCentive to expand its business of setting up government-run exchanges. That's because some of the 34 states whose exchanges are being run by, or in conjunction with the federal government may end up operating their own exchanges, and hiring companies like hCentive to implement them. "That's the next wave of business," Singh said. And after Obama was re-elected last yeareffectively killing Republicans' hopes of repealing Obamacare"demand just went through roof" from insurance companies who needed to connect online with the exchanges, Singh said.
(Read more: Doctors confused, skeptical of Obamacare)

"This year we signed 10 to 12 payers or insurance companies," he said. "As late as today, when were are [close to Oct.1] we are getting requests from payers to help them connect to state exchanges." The company is also being kept busy by the fact that the federal government has been routinely issuing regulations and updated guidance that relates to the exchanges even as the Oct. 1 deadline gets ever closer. Those announcements often require making changes to the technology and interfaces that Singh's company is implementing. "CMS changes things on an almost daily basis," he said, referring to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "We literally spend hours every day listening to CMS conference calls."

Even as Singh and his company work to get set for the open-enrollment date, "we are already talking to states about implementing a 'phase two,' things we could not deliver by Oct. 1." "Three, or four, five years from now, down the road, all the systems are going to look very differently from the way they did on Day One," he said. Along with business related to the government-run exchanges, hCentive is expanding into the private exchange market. Those private exchanges give workers and individuals a broader range of insurance plans than might otherwise be available from traditional benefits plans offered by employers. For now, they are a tiny part of the overall U.S. insurance market, but analysts expect them to grow dramatically as employers try to hold down benefits costs. Singh said hCentive has positioned itself to take advantage of the private exchange market, "if these exchanges do take off." "One of our goals is that by 2017, 10 percent of the U.S. population at that time, when they access their health benefits, they will do so leveraging or touching our technology," he said. "Either they will be shopping on our platform, or we will enable that transaction."