Seattle geek’s frustrating quest for family health coverage sparks PickHealthInsurance

Adam Doppelt

Like most entrepreneurs, Adam Doppelt recently faced the mind-numbing task of trying to track down a health care plan that would cover him and his family.

“Things crystallized for me when I almost bought a plan that claimed to cover maternity, only to discover late in the game that it had a separate $20,000 maternity deductible. What a mess,” said Doppelt.

But, unlike many of us who’ve gone through that painstaking process, Doppelt decided to do something about it.

Over the course of a few weekends, the Internet entrepreneur cooked up an interesting little side project called PickHealthInsurance. The bare-bones Web site is as straightforward as its name.

Just enter your age, zip code, number of family members and whether you are a tobacco user, and multiple plans are returned. (In my case, 45 plans from providers such as Assurant, LifeWise, Regence and Group Health with premiums ranging from $233 to $933).

Doppelt actually is best known for helping to create Urbanspoon, the Seattle online restaurant directory which was sold to IAC in 2009. (In fact, it was the expiration of his COBRA plan through IAC which led to the recent hunt for health insurance).

But can this Seattle geek make health insurance shopping as easy as finding a nearby restaurant?

He’s off to a good start, with pretty good reaction on the influential tech news aggregator Hacker News. Wrote one user:

“Very cool. I wish I had this when shopping for insurance a year ago.”

Justin Smith, a Seattle area entrepreneur who runs DegreeJava, tells GeekWire that he liked PickHealthInsurance when he gave it a try.

The application is easy to use, allows me to compare apples to apples.  I don’t need the salesy talk of some sales person, I need the facts to make an informed decision and then go forward.  What’s particularly nice is that many companies offer more than one plan; this application shows those plans clearly….    Besides I can look at it at midnight when I am just finishing my day and have 30 seconds to reflect.

I followed up with Doppelt to get a little more detail on the idea, which he says is absolutely a side project and not taking away from his latest startup Dwellable. In fact, Dwellable — an online vacation rental service — also originated when Doppelt encountered a frustrating personal experience. (Previously: Hawaiian beach vacation from hell sparks Urbanspoon co-founder to start Dwellable).

Doppelt summarized the experiences of many who’ve looked for health care coverage when I asked him about the origin of PickHealthInsurance.

“Has this ever happened to you? It sucks bigtime,” Doppelt tells GeekWire. “Bootstrapping/entrepreneurship is hard and this is just one unfortunate part of the process. Luckily this is an area where technology can help.”

With PickHealthInsurance, Doppelt said the goal was to create something that was “snappy and well designed.” There are other sites that provide comparisons of insurance rates, including eHealthInsurance. But Doppelt said most are “somewhat slow and dated.”

Here’s a look at search results on PickHealthInsurance.

  • TomL

    Adam is an extraordinarily talented programmer. This looks like the beginnings of another great offering. Go dogs go [it's green ahead]!

  • TomL

    Adam is an extraordinarily talented programmer. This looks like the beginnings of another great offering. Go dogs go [it's green ahead]!

  • TomL

    Adam also makes a delightful quiche.

  • TomL

    Once, I fell down a well, and though my luck had ended… meaning, I thought it was all over. Who wandered by and helped me out? Adam.

  • Anonymous

    I am very thankful for our health insurance, and even more thankful that we found an affordable one through “Penny Health” online. It has been 6 years that they have not increased my premiums. Having health insurance gives us a peace of mind

  • TomL

    If I ever go on a quiz show (like “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”), and I’m stuck trying to answer a question, and I can call only one person to help me with an answer, it’ll be Adam.

  • TomL

    Adam spent his sabbatical last year at zulily helping us out. He wrote more Ruby than anyone else had (a record that still stands today). We gave him the nicest monitor and I think it really helped his productivity. I learned that his regexp foo is extremely strong.

  • TomL

    Adam spent his sabbatical last year at zulily helping us out. He wrote more Ruby than anyone else had (a record that still stands today). We gave him the nicest monitor and I think it really helped his productivity. I learned that his regexp foo is extremely strong.

  • TomL

    Adam loves to write long, maundering stored procedures.

    Oh wait … that’s me who does that. 

    Adam loves to read them.