For the Record with Abir Sen, Cofounder & Executive Chairman, Gravie

Abir Sen is cofounder and executive chairman at Gravie where he focuses on making sure the company is well positioned and fully equipped to meet the needs of its members. Abir was the founding CEO of Gravie and led the company through 2019.

Prior to founding Gravie, Abir was cofounder and CEO of Bloom Health where he led the team that pioneered the private exchange model of financing health benefits. Prior to founding Bloom Health, Abir was cofounder and president of RedBrick Health. Under his leadership, RedBrick Health launched an industry-leading health earnings system, created innovative products and achieved health improvement results that far surpassed its competitors. Before founding RedBrick Health, Abir cofounded Definity Health where he was involved in the creation of the personal care account, the predecessor to the health savings account.

Abir began his career at Deloitte Consulting where he advised managed care organizations and integrated delivery systems on mergers, acquisitions and turnaround strategies. He has also worked as an advisor to Fidelity Investment’s health and welfare departments where he helped launch their benefit consulting business.

Abir earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Lawrence University and his MBA from Harvard Business School. He’s on the board of directors at Allina Health and the board of trustees at Lawrence University, and he’s a member of several other boards, including the Animal Humane Society and The Compassion Museum.

Give us Gravie’s elevator pitch.

Gravie’s health benefits are designed with employers and employees needs in mind – helping to control costs, without reducing coverage or compromising value, and providing a better experience along the way. Gravie’s disrupts traditional models by offering more transparent and immediate coverage – even eliminating barriers like co-pays and deductibles, incentivizing individuals to get care when they need it.  With Gravie, employers no longer have to navigate the complexities of the healthcare industry on their own, and employees have access health benefits they can actually use.

Like so many industries, COVID-19 has taken center stage in healthcare. What was going through your head when the gravity of this situation hit you?

It became clear to me early on that the healthcare industry was in for some major changes. An obvious change is that we were going to see an accelerated adoption of new technology across payers and providers. This is especially apparent with telemedicine as we move beyond consumer service providers and towards companies enabling infrastructure and back-end processes that create better user experiences. I also knew that now, more than ever, there must be a focus on providing access to quality healthcare coverage. In many cases, an individual’s health insurance determines their healthcare experience as a whole. I believe we’ll continue to move away from high-deductible health plans, with a focus on benefits people can actually use.

As a leader, how has your role changed during COVID-19?

One job of a leader is to cast vision and to help people see a future that’s not yet in focus. That’s never more relevant than when the future feels especially uncertain. Additionally, as an industry-leading company we’ve understood our responsibility to keep asking questions of our customers and constituents, listen closely to what the market is needing, what barriers they are facing, and continue delivering solutions and experiences that meet those needs with increased relevancy.

How have you pivoted your company to address the needs that have risen since the onset of COVID-19?

Gravie continues to pioneer the defined contribution approach, and tailoring healthcare to the needs of each employee. Our marketplace continues to evolve to meet the needs and demands of consumers, especially in the middle of a pandemic when more individuals are at risk for health concerns. In addition to products from over 400 insurers across the country, we now have our own “store-brand” products as well. We recently launched one of these products, Gravie Comfort. While it was in the works well before the onset of COVID-19, it directly addresses many of the gaps and opportunities that COVID-19 is shining a spotlight on in the healthcare system. For example, in this environment, the importance of consistent, comprehensive coverage has become crystal clear. Countless Americans have skipped out on needed care to avoid paying a high deductible or copay, not to mention wanting to stay socially distant. And in the wake of COVID-19, getting immediate medical attention or testing can be vital. Many individuals and their families are having to choose between getting needed care or keeping the lights on. Gravie Comfort, which has zero copays and zero deductibles, was designed with price transparency in mind, with an emphasis in incentivizing individuals in getting the care they need when they need it, without confusing or expensive hoops to jump through.

We also know that business owners are in need of ways to better control their budgets. They are closely evaluating expenses, including examining the value that their health benefits program provides to employees. The status quo isn’t cutting it anymore. Today, more than 90% of employers’ healthcare spend goes to benefit less than 10% of their employee base. If employers are going to spend ~$12,000 a year on health benefits per employee, their investments need to start paying off in a way that exceed employees’ expectations and differentiates them as an employer.

What are the big milestones to come in the next few years for Gravie?

We will continue to focus on developing product offerings that are innovative and fulfill the ultimate goal of improving the customer healthcare experience. We’re laser focused on solutions that meet employers’ and employees’ needs.

What does leadership look like to you?

To me, leadership is about helping each member of your team achieve their fullest potential. A good leader enables their followers to scale heights and achieve successes that they never thought they could achieve.

What is the best advice you have received in your career? What is the worst?

The best advice I have received in my career was: “Slow down and focus on what you are doing today. Don’t worry about what happens five, ten, 15 years from now.” The worst advice was from an employer telling me I should stay in a certain job in exchange for paying for business school. While that would have been an added benefit if the job was the right fit, it’s not a reason to stay in a position.  

What have been the most rewarding moments in your career?

I’ve been lucky to have had a number of extremely rewarding moments in my career so far, but at the top of that list would have to be seeing some individuals who worked for me in the past become respected leaders and achieve great career success. 

What is one personal goal for the upcoming year?

My personal goal for the upcoming year is to take an extended road trip in my pickup truck to less-frequented spots across the country, documenting my journey along the way.

How do you relax / decompress?

My go-to activities for relaxing and decompressing include: Spending time in the woods, reading, and listening to music. Wine also helps.

What do you enjoy most about the Medical Alley community? 

While Gravie is a newer member to the Medical Alley community, it’s already so apparent that there’s a sense of camaraderie among the organizations. Seeing what other great leaders in the space are doing is incredibly motivating and makes me hopeful about the future of healthcare.

Welcome to Medical Alley Association’s For The Record interview series! Join us as we sit down with innovators in the delivery, payment, technology, and policy industries, giving us – and in turn, you – access to diverse perspectives on how healthcare is changing and what lies ahead.

Medical Alley is the global epicenter of health innovation and care; For The Record, is meant to share insights and spark discussion. If you have a perspective on the future of healthcare, feel free to share it by reaching out to Jamie Oyen, Marketing Manager at joyen@medicalalley.org

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