Stride Health co-founder and CEO Noah Lang wants to reshape the future of employee benefits

How one company is connecting gig workers with health insurance.
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Noah Lang

· 5 min read

People across the US have increasingly left desk jobs—by choice or otherwise—and joined the so-called gig economy as rideshare drivers, delivery workers, dog walkers…you name it. But while the benefits of gig work (like being able to set your own hours) are often touted, these jobs tend to come with one major drawback: a lack of benefits.

Stride Health is looking to change that. Noah Lang, co-founder and CEO of the California-based insurance broker, said Stride was created to connect workers who lack access to traditional employer-based benefits with a range of affordable insurance options—including plans offered through the federal exchange (Healthcare.gov), for which the company is an approved partner.

Stride Health’s free online platform tailors health insurance and benefit recommendations to a person’s income level and circumstances. The model seeks to disrupt the traditional employer-based insurance model by helping users find coverage (and handle any related tax credits) that is not tied to their job.

And major companies are taking notice. Stride boasts Uber and Red Lobster as two of the “hundreds” of employers that use its Affordable Care Act health portal for independent contractors. It has also launched partnerships with Allstate and others.

In this interview, Lang talks about how Stride is helping to change the conversation around health insurance and benefits, and what that could mean for the future of US workers.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

Tell me more about Stride and the space it occupies in the insurance industry.

We’re building a new benefit system. I know that sounds bold and crazy, but that’s why we’re all here: We live in a world where the benefit system was built for companies 70 years ago…Our product consists of this health coverage engine, where we built a recommendation engine and algorithm that basically meets [a person] where [they’re] at: How healthy or sick are you? What’s your general age [and] demographic identifiers? What prescription drugs are you on? Are there any doctors that you love and you want to keep? And trying to give you an answer.

We’ve built around that a full stack of benefits—dental, vision, life, accident, disability [insurance]—to look and feel like, hopefully what you and I get from our full-time jobs that people on their own tend not to get. And we’ve chucked all of that inside an app…We partnered with Amazon to get all of their flex workers the coverage they need and the tax help they need. Same thing with Uber, Instacart, DoorDash—everybody you can think of in the delivery-based economy partners with us.

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How does your company make money?

We’re a commission-blind brokerage, so it doesn’t help me negotiate with health plans. But we built this engine [on] consumer trust. Our…licensed agents, none of those folks know what we make on a certain plan…We make money as a broker [through] classic, recurring commissions, but [that doesn’t affect] how we deliver our product to the consumer…We actually launched a platform that’s being used by health plans and by third-party agents now to enroll their own customers. So, we do earn some revenue directly.

I imagine a criticism Stride faces is that it’s enabling large companies to avoid providing benefits to their employees. How do you respond to that?

There’s a lot of debate around employee classification and employee benefits. I think they should be separated. I think benefits should be decoupled from your job…We’re meeting the workforce where it’s at: We’re helping to close that coverage gap and keep people healthy, productive, and financially well. And we’re pushing the bar on what we think the next iteration of benefits in the 1099 economy should look like. I’m advocating for and helping to engage with legislation in a half dozen states right now where we will see—it’s inevitable at this point—contributions toward benefits, whether it’s in individual accounts or government-managed funds going toward benefits for 1099 workers.

If your goal here is to decouple benefits from work, how do you lure people away from employer-sponsored coverage and companies away from offering plans?

We’re meeting the market where it’s at and we’re meeting those companies where they’re at. We’re early on the curve of traditional W2 employees getting individual benefits. A lot of it is smaller to mid-size organizations that have got employees who are scattered across three-dozen states—which a lot of companies do now—and it just doesn’t make sense to manage a group plan. You have companies that have their group premiums spiraling out of control. We have folks who have seen their premiums go up 60% year over year.

We’re trying to drive really successful experiences for employees and those workforces so that tomorrow we can educate individuals, and HR organizations, and benefits administrators on the option to provide more flexibility to their workforce.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.