Health-benefits provider wants to be in top ten US cities by next summer

Toronto-based startup founder outlines ambitious US expansion plans

Health-benefits provider wants to be in top ten US cities by next summer
For many startups, expansion is usually planned out in five or ten-year increments, but that isn’t the case for Toronto-based firm League. Founded in 2014, it is already in the process of bringing its digital health-benefits platform right across the United States. The provider first dipped its toe in US waters last October in the tech hub of Seattle, and success there has facilitated a national roll-out over the next year. Founder and CEO of League, Michael Serbinis, explains his strategy for bringing customized benefits plans to the world’s largest economy and healthcare spender.

“The top 10 markets – cities and metro areas – they are worth more than 80% of the business, so we are focused on those top 10 markets and getting there by next summer,” he says. “The regulatory framework in the US is more burdensome and you have to go state by state. It’s Boston, Massachusetts; San Francisco and LA in California; Dallas and Houston in Texas that are next on the hit list.”

The healthcare industry is big business in the US, but also a highly divisive political football. More so than any other issue, the repeal of Obamacare was what Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was built upon. Health insurance is central to that debate, but according to Serbinis, the inflammatory rhetoric that surrounds the industry shouldn’t affect League’s expansion plans too much.

“A lot of the noise around healthcare right now and the potential repeal of Obamacare is really the individual market,” he explains. “We are in the employer market, so with companies that are competing for talent and want the best talent, they will always offer health benefits. They want the best benefits they can afford, so we don’t really see any instability in this market.”

League has positioned itself as a digital experience that allows small and medium-sized businesses the chance to offer customized benefits plans to their employees. With the backing of huge corporations like RBC, Manulife and Power Corporation of Canada, the firms it does business with have now grown outside of any SMB parameters. It also counts Aetna, United Healthcare, Regence BlueShield and Humana as partners in the US. In the opinion of its founder, League is a true disruptor in an industry that badly needs it. 

“Health needs have changed,” he says. “Today mental health is one of the biggest sources of long-term disability costs, it’s more than even cancer. That wasn’t the case 30 years ago. Customers change, technology changes, and most incumbents are well behind the curve.”

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