We sat down with Noah Lang, CEO and co-founder of Stride Health which delivers intelligent healthcare coverage to self-employed and independent working Americans. Noah was part of a roundtable session for a small group of FinTech leaders, held by the Financial Security Program’s EPIC initiative on income volatility. The group discussed workplace volatility and shared opportunities for FinTech to lead with solutions. Noah shared his insights from that meeting and talked to us about how Stride Health is helping to solve for income volatility.
Watch the interview above, or read the full transcript below.
Q. Why don’t you start off by telling us a little more about Stride Health and what you offer.
Stride Health is a complete and portable benefits platform for part-time and contingent workforces. We serve the people in this country who don’t get benefits from their employers. We’re probably best known for the work we’ve done with on-demand economy platforms. We work with companies like Uber, Etsy, Postmates, Instacart, TaskRabbit, and Care.com in the care-taking space, to cover their 1099 workers who would otherwise be on their own seeking out that coverage. We also serve hundreds of thousands of traditional workers outside of the on-demand and contingent economy. Our suite tackles everything from healthcare and coverage to helping you with taxes and expenses and other coverages that solve critical challenges for people who are working independently.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what came out of the roundtable? Were there any stand-out solutions that came about from fintech leaders?
I think the core thing that came out was the problem: Income volatility is the new normal. You’ve got a third of American household that say month-over-month their income is changing. Even more stated their month-over-month expenses were changing.
So we’re dealing with a new kind of normal and in the round table, and here at Stride every day, we talk a lot about predictability as one of the core challenges. When you look at our core health coverage experience, one of the things that we do is we help make the unpredictable more predictable. That’s the core to insurance products and as you look at the policies, whether by employers or the policies in the public sector, those policy solutions – that type of product solutions – will solve these problems and steady the fluctuations for this workforce. As we look at products here at Stride, and we look at products in a number of companies, both private companies that joined the roundtable and those that joined the event that we hosted at Stride the day before.
Most products that provide guidance on how to navigate and predict life’s natural fluctuations are those that are really going to solve this critical problem.
Q. Are there any policies that come from this that will really help solve for income volatility?
I founded Stride in the wake of another policy, the Affordable Care Act, and a handful of trends that were driving more risk and responsibility downstream on consumers. Some came from public policy, some just came from the private sector. The most notable trend was the increasingly common high-deductible health plans, which are putting more risk and responsibility on us as individuals. It’s happening in employer markets, as well as individual markets. And as a result, you hold more risk every single time you transact.
I think the policy encouraged that, but also protected against that by layering in protections from tax credits, in the form of subsidies, and cost-savings reductions, in the form of cost savings reductions, throughout plans for people who qualify for them. New policies should address trends that are going to drive better decision-making and more efficient financial management for people who have income or expense volatility in their lives. High-deductible health plans were trying to drive more responsibility over how we consume care, so that as a nation we can lower the overall cost of care.
Q. It seems like the fintech industry in particular is sort of prime to help solve for this issue of income volatility. Do you agree? Do you think fintech can stand out from other industries to solve this?
We’re a healthcare company, but we’re not. “How do I find the right health coverage for me and make sure it’s actually financially the correct decision?” is the core problem we solve today. Yes, our users care about their coverage. They care about prescription drugs. They care about access to the right doctors. But at the end of the day, coverage is a financial security decision. It’s about protecting their income, which may or may not be volatile.
Fintech has to work in conjunction with public policy.
There is a lot of streamlining that can be done particularly with tax law for these populations to reduce the impact or open up opportunities along the record frequencies and time horizons. Fintech products that help people better manage their lives on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis give that guidance and remove the inefficiencies of decision-making for individuals and families experiencing income volatility. These products will get us there the fastest.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Stride Health in particular? What are some of the benefits or features that you offer that help to solve for income volatility?
Health coverage is at the core of what we do. We’re helping people to effectively access the right coverage for themselves, determine how to invest in it, and then figure out how to use it. Because getting someone coverage is not the end of the job. It’s on us to open up the ability to use the healthcare system to consume affordably.
We’re also helping individuals track their expenses, manage their taxes, and save for the short- to medium-term so that when they have those volatile moments – tax season is actually one of them for a number of individuals – we can dampen the impact on their lives. We make sure they’re ready for those moments.
You work for a traditional employer, they set you up with everything, right? They give you your paycheck and they put some of it in your taxes, some in your health insurance, some in disability, and long-term care, and retirement. No one has done that for the independent and contingent worker and that’s what we’re doing: setting you up for success and stability by picking, and sometimes having to create, the right product experiences to drive stability and predictability for those whose income or expenses are volatile.
Q. Can you share what’s up next for Stride Health? What you have coming down the pipeline?
We’ve learned we can apply a lot of what we’ve done in healthcare to the rest of the financial lives of people that we serve. I met personally with more than one thousand workers and what I heard from them was they were missing some basic financial understanding in their lives. There was a disconnect between how much they were earning and how much they were spending to earn that money. They were leaving a lot of opportunity on the table. So Stride will be building products to protect income, to keep you more of what you earn, and to keep you healthy physically and financially because your income, your health, your taxes are forever intertwined and we shouldn’t try to separate them anymore. We will keep them together for you as an independent, part-time, or contingent worker.