Meet The Disruptors: Ashok Subramanian of Centivo On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
The word “disruptive” has certainly become a buzzword, especially as it relates to technology and/or new business models. Personally, I prefer the word “transformation.” American consumers don’t want change for the sake of change. They want to move from today’s “lose-lose” approach to a “win-win” paradigm. We can do that as long as we are honest with ourselves that any solution needs to attack the supply side — provider price and utilization — as much as it involves trying to change the demand-side or consumer behavior.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashok Subramanian
Ashok founded Centivo in 2017 after observing the inefficiency in the healthcare system and the pain that has resulted for employers and employees. Prior to Centivo, Ashok co-founded Liazon, operator of the nation’s industry-leading private benefits exchange for active employees. In addition to his role at Centivo, Ashok serves as a senior advisor to Silversmith Capital, a growth equity firm.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have worked in healthcare — first as a consultant and then later as an entrepreneur — for nearly 20+ years at this point. Over the years, knowing what I know, I’ve become deeply disillusioned by the impact that large healthcare organizations — insurance carriers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), big pharma, etc. — and their never-ending quest for outsized profits has had on the ability of working Americans to afford their healthcare. It’s sad and disappointing that, in the year 2023, the average person has a health insurance deductible that is 5x larger than what he or she has socked away in case of any emergency. So, I helped start Centivo, a new type of health plan for self-funded employers anchored around leading providers of value-based care, and have committed my career to trying to solve these problems for the millions of workers who struggle to pay their medical bills.
Prior to Centivo, I co-founded Liazon, the operator of the nation’s industry-leading private benefits exchange for active employees. Liazon was acquired by Willis Towers Watson in 2013. After the acquisition, I stayed on as Chief Executive Officer and served as Managing Director for Willis Towers Watson’s Group Exchange business. I also previously served as an Associate Principal at McKinsey and Co. in the firm’s healthcare and private equity practices. I received my undergraduate degree from Princeton University, master’s degree from Stanford University and MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Let’s start with the facts. Over the past decade, wages are up 23 percent, health insurance deductibles have increased 111 percent and the average stock price of the publicly traded insurance carriers is up 300 percent. There has to be a better way and there is.
This is where Centivo comes in. As an alternative to traditional insurance carriers, we work with employers across the U.S. — ranging from organizations with as few as 51 employees to the Fortune 500 — to offer tens of thousands of employees a health plan that saves money, delivers better quality care and offers a superior experience. For employers, this means dramatic healthcare cost savings (21 to 33 percent) compared to widely recognized industry benchmarks, as well as healthier, more engaged workers.
For employees, our unique benefit plan that features free primary care, no deductibles and simple copays for all other services delivers concrete savings into people’s pockets and better healthcare outcomes. Our results show more visits to primary care physicians (+30 percent) and fewer visits to the emergency room (-15 percent). The typical member paid an average of only $409 per year, compared to the national average of over $1,600 per year). Additionally, Centivo’s low, predictable costs means they know exactly what they’re going to pay for care, eliminating the unnecessary financial anxiety that comes with today’s healthcare experience.
Think about it this way: you wouldn’t go to a restaurant, pick what you’re going to eat and then hope for the best when the bill comes. This is often exactly what it feels like for Americans today when they need to go to the doctor. Our core mission at Centivo is to make high-quality, cost-effective healthcare a reality for everyone. We do this by partnering with leading providers — those that are committed to value-based care — and commit to market-leading pricing without compromising on quality. The only way out of this healthcare mess we are in is to acknowledge a simple reality — we cannot continue to presume that a broad network that includes all providers can control cost as effectively as a curated approach that features only those providers that achieve the best outcomes.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
The word “disruptive” has certainly become a buzzword, especially as it relates to technology and/or new business models. Personally, I prefer the word “transformation.” American consumers don’t want change for the sake of change. They want to move from today’s “lose-lose” approach to a “win-win” paradigm. We can do that as long as we are honest with ourselves that any solution needs to attack the supply side — provider price and utilization — as much as it involves trying to change the demand-side or consumer behavior. At Centivo, we’ve turned this industry-wide complacency into an opportunity to make purposeful strides in bringing high-quality, affordable healthcare to people signed up for health benefits through their employers.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Centivo continues to bring its Partnership Plan to employers and employees in new markets across the U.S., as well as expand our partnerships with more of the highest-quality, value-based healthcare providers in the country. We recently launched our Virtual Primary Care offering, which is included at no cost to the employee in all of our plans and is one of the first to receive Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Recognition by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). We plan to expand upon our virtual offering to deliver more accessible and equitable care.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
We can make healthcare radically affordable for every American by shining a light on the inefficiency in today’s system and exploiting those differences in price and quality. It starts by setting a clear goal: Every employer needs to offer at least one plan option that offers full healthcare coverage and pays for at least 90 percent of the total expenses of the plan. With the right social pressure to achieve this result on behalf of the typical American, I know we can make it a reality.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!