A few years ago, Allen Byerly, a tech guy at heart, found himself out of a job and without a support structure. To add to his stress, he also faced a serious health crisis. It was “pretty dicey” for him for a while, he admits. Still, with the help of friends and family — and the passage of the Accountable Care Act, which helps to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance — Byerly, who now describes himself as “healthier than he’s ever been,” is now the other side of that experience.
Today, he wants to make a difference for people who need access to health care, especially during vulnerable times in their lives. Byerly wants to help people looking for health insurance who are afraid they can’t afford it.
“If you have a chronic disease such as cancer, the plan that you want is going to be totally different from the plan that you’d choose on the [health] exchanges,” said Byerly, who co-founded of GroupHub with Gabriel Roybal. The platform is paid for by insurance brokers and makes enrolling for health insurance easier.
Earlier this month, Not Impossible Now met up with Byerly at Health 2.0’s Code-A-Thon in Boston, where he pitched his idea to make it easier for vulnerable populations to apply for health insurance.
During his presentation, he walked through the ease of signing up for health insurance with GroupHub, an online portal. It involves responding to a few simple questions about relationship, parenthood, and employment status, and about current health conditions. GroupHub can then connect the user with a physician who can provide care. During his presentation, Byerly discussed the need to focus on Native American populations.
Not Impossible Now picked his brain to find out more.
NIN: Tell me why Native Americans are most in need of this help. What other populations could be served by GroupHub?
Allen Byerly: There are all of these Native Americans who aren’t getting coverage, even though they have 100% of their costs covered for them because of the Affordable Care Act. Gabriel, my co-founder, has [Native American genetic heritage], and I have Native American in my blood, too. Knowing that we can help this population is really what Gabriel and I are all about. You know, helping people who don’t have the resources to manage their health and wellbeing. It’s exactly what we want to do.
We know that for Native Americans, only about 30 percent of them have proper coverage. The quality of care that many of this population currently receive isn’t great, but the Affordable Care Act provides them with access to really good quality care. Gosh, if we can do that for Native Americans – and make it a mobile solution and take it out to thousands of people to sign up for health insurance, that would be amazing.
My co-founder Gabriel says the transgender population is completely underserved. We’ve got the poor, the elderly, the non-native English-speaking populations. They’re all underserved. There’s a great opportunity to reach them. It’s simple. And it comes from a place of understanding them.
How about urban and rural populations? Does this seem like a relevant solution for these populations as well?
Byerly: Absolutely. And if it’s mobile, you can take our application and put it in the inner city that has a particular disease population or a high incidence of obesity or diabetes, and have the system already know the best plan for that general population and the best services in that area that can help them.
I don’t want to give too much away here, but we’re working with drug companies on projects involving cancer patients. After getting cancer patients signed up for insurance, we can ask them if they’d like to be involved in research studies that are going on related to their disease. That’s really powerful. Those are the kinds of ideas we’re trying to build into our platform. We’re very early stage.
Why did you choose the name GroupHub?
Byerly: We called ourselves GroupHub because we’re all about community-based healthcare, and community is a type of group. We wanted to be that hub for all of your health and wellness needs. Your insurance, your benefits, everything that helps you manage your life. It’s not just an individual. There’s also the group that comes together and will actually work together — and that’s really for the benefit of everyone.
When will GroupHub be available?
Byerly: Our launch date for a public beta is April 24. Our official launch date is in July. People can sign up today if they go to www.grouphub.club.
What does the future hold?
Byerly: My vision is that GroupHub becomes like the Mint.com for health and wellness. The promise of digital health is to put health data together to really empower people, doctors, hospitals, care givers and the larger community to make the right decisions about their health.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify GroupHub’s co-founder Gabriel Roybal’s Native American genetic heritage. In an email, Roybal explained he “had his personal genome sequenced and learned that he has Native American genetic heritage. While he is not affiliated with a federally recognized tribe, he grew up in Pojoaque, New Mexico, a town enriched with a large population of Native Americans. His experiences growing up and attending school in a town like Pojoaque have provided [him] with an appreciation for some of the challenges that impact his friends and loved ones that are members of the Tribes of Northern New Mexico.”