The Customer Focus That Sparked a Record-Breaking Enrollment Period
Working with the Spark team has been a masterclass in getting to know what Medicare Advantage agents really need. Here’s how they drove a 10x in enrollment.
Every time our team gets on a zoom call with James Jiang, he’s calling from somewhere new. As the cofounder and CEO of Spark, an operating system for independent Medicare Advantage brokers, he’s constantly on the road connecting with customers and building a deep understanding for what they want and need.
Spark is a bit like Compass, in that it uplevels the tools and resources of brokerages and brokers, enabling them to focus on what they do best — getting patients into the right health insurance. Although Spark is a software company, they sit within the insurance commission stream and capture a portion of the annuity payments for each enrollment and renewal. By partnering, vs acquiring brokers and brokerages, the team has unlocked a highly capital-efficient and compounding model that has clearly convinced top-performing brokers across the country that this is the future of the Medicare Advantage distribution. In 2022, the team reached 1,300 agent partners (a 7x uptick in a year) and 20,000 Medicare enrollments (a 10x increase)—James is frequently sending us photos of the Spark jerseys, trophies, and other memorabilia happy clients greet him and the team with.
I spent a lot of time looking at the Medicare Advantage distribution market before I met James and his cofounders Alex Zhang and Byron Edwards. It’s an area I continue to be excited about broadly, but when looking at the other companies approaching the “distribution” problem, I found the capital-intensive route of acquiring members, or acquiring agencies to be problematic. Over the last few years, eHealth, GoHealth and SelectQuote have all very publicly highlighted the challenges with this model.
Meanwhile, despite the constant trope that “brokers are dead,” the independent Medicare Advantage broker channels are still thriving, driving 40-50% of enrollments annually. They don’t just make up a lot of the market, they also have deep, boots-on-the-ground expertise on what patients really want and need. They’re setting up tables at the local Walmart, slicing coffee cake in church basements, and getting invites to family barbeques. They’re members of the communities they serve, and because of that members tend to stick on their plans for longer. But, to do this well, brokers need to spend significant time researching plans and have very few tools to help them manage their day to day operations.
That’s where Spark enters. With deep experience in healthcare and operations, they knew they could offer something better.
Over the past year, the Spark team has continued to focus maniacally on the individual broker experience, which has helped drive enormous growth. Spark made it their mission to work with the best performers from each agency and engrain themselves within their workflow. Building for that archetype, they’ve been able to create solutions that are valuable for all types of agents and agencies.
In 2022, Spark launched a fully-integrated CRM and quote & enroll platform, a white-labeled retention marketing program, on-demand client service available to all agent partners, and a strategic partnership with one of the largest value-based provider groups in the country. What this means is that today a broker no longer needs to leave the Spark platform to do their job.
Looking ahead, Spark’s approach and connectivity into this unique distribution channel, is already proving to be very attractive to health plans, payors, and provider groups across the U.S., each of who realizes that it’s vital to better understand the patients that they are serving. As Spark emerges as the connectivity tissue between these different organizations, it’s clear that they will continue to capture additional value, while also helping to ensure that every patient is in the health plan for them.
It’s been a pleasure to see this all happen and I’m even more excited about what lies ahead for this thoughtful, impressive team.