Apps to Use When Shopping for Health Insurance Win National Competition

    • March 19, 2015
Professional man sits at a desk working on a computer.

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has named Washington, D.C.-based Consumers’ CHECKBOOK as the winner of its first ‘Plan Choice Challenge,’ a nationwide competition facilitated by Health 2.0 to design a technology application that helps people evaluate their health insurance options.

Stride Health (San Francisco, Calif.) and Clear Health Analytics (Stamford, Conn.) took second and third place, respectively. All three winning apps compare health insurance plans in consumer-friendly terms. Each narrows plans by cost-sharing features and help consumers calculate any projected tax credits.

With the Affordable Care Act creating millions of first-time health insurance customers, experts say there is an immense need to help people quickly access comparative information online, with language and displays that are easy to understand, prior to the next open enrollment period in 2016. 

“The direct-to-consumer insurance market is in its infancy, and developers can add a tremendous amount of value by helping consumers make better decisions,” said Katherine Hempstead, PhD, who directs coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The response to this challenge has been overwhelming, and the creativity and talent on display in these applications confirms that developers will play a vital role in moving this market forward.”

The winning application, Consumers’ CHECKBOOK’s Plan Compare tool, enables consumers to scroll through all available plans on a single webpage and compare for each plan: 1) estimated average total yearly cost (premium plus out-of-pocket) for people of the same family size, ages, health status, and other characteristics as the user, 2) risk (the total cost in a very high health-care-usage year), 3) an overall quality rating that the user can personalize based on what quality dimensions matter most to the user; and 4) which of a list of preferred doctors the user has identified participate in the plan. Users can drill down for much more detail, but CHECKBOOK’s research has found that 60 percent make their choice based on these four key elements.

“We’ve been helping federal employees compare health plans for more than 35 years,” said Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers’ CHECKBOOK. “We know if they don’t get quick answers, ideally in less than five minutes, they’ll take shortcuts—like choosing based on lowest premium alone or lowest deductible—and end up wasting thousands of dollars.”

Stride Health secured second place with its mobile application billed as the ‘world’s first health insurance recommendation engine,’ which recommends a health plan by intelligently forecasting total annual costs based on demographics, medical conditions, prescription drugs, and financial information input by the consumer. The application recommends a specific health plan that is the best-fit financial investment, and its side-by-side comparisons allows consumers to sort plans for the features most important to them, like preferred providers and coverage for existing prescriptions.                

Stride Health also stands apart in its unique scenario analysis that has been used by millennials seeking to understand how coverage will protect them in the event of a personal health emergency. Stride Health already covers 44 percent of the country's population and has been adopted by major independent contractor workforces to serve hundreds of thousands of Americans currently seeking coverage.

Third place went to Clear Health Analytics’ Clear Health Plan Selector, featuring its clear cost estimator, a straight forward estimate of premiums plus out-of-pocket expenses. The application provides an easy-to-navigate matrix displaying the projected type and quantity of health services an individual or family is likely to use in the next year that then provides the basis for personalized cost estimates.

The three finalists were required to submit concepts of their application and wireframes in phase I, and working prototypes in phase II. Both Consumers’ CHECKBOOK and Stride Health’s apps have already been adopted by select state insurance marketplaces. Clear Health Analytics will roll out its application as an e-brokerage in select states in the near future.

An ongoing competition, the RWJF and HHS Provider Network Challenge seeks applications to help consumers make a more informed decision when selecting a provider, including in-network status and if the provider is well-ranked among patients. Winners will be announced in August.

About Health 2.0’s Developer Challenge Program

With more than $7M awarded in prizes to-date, Health 2.0’s Developer Challenge Programs foster online competitions aimed at tackling the most complex challenges we face in health care. The world’s top developers, designers, health care professionals and entrepreneurs compete in these challenges, pilot programs and code-a-thons to create and prototype innovative applications and tools. These competitions leverage funding, market reach and validation that only Health 2.0 can provide. For more information, please visit

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937