By Summer Aguirre
Many people refuse hospital visits due to the high cost of health care — even if the procedure is emergent.
Melissa Blatt, however, has made it her mission to create a solution to this problem.
Through the Phoenix-based platform indipop, the Chandler resident offers self-employed individuals throughout the United States affordable membership-based health care options. Indipop curates health care plans that are not based on employment status or earnings and fit each person’s budget and needs. Blatt was inspired to start indipop after her own struggle to find affordable health insurance when she first pursued self-employment.
“One of our core values is that we believe in people and their dreams. I think about the person who’s sitting at the 9-to-5 job, who is staying for the benefits,” Blatt says.
“They would love to be a graphic artist or a business consultant on their own, but they can’t because of the high cost of health care. This is something that can really help people make their dreams come true and be their own boss.”
Indipop — named after the “independent, self-employed population” the founder and CEO serves — offers three major medical health care plans for individuals and families, supplemental dental and vision, a prescription program and two group plans for small businesses of three or more.
According to Blatt, the process to obtain health care through indipop is “considerably easier” than traditional health insurance.
“Enrollment takes minutes. You can enroll through the site or work with one of our health guides to assist in matching you based upon your needs. The plans offered through indipop have set pricing and transparent rates when a major medical need occurs, helping to avoid surprise large medical bills, Blatt says.
“But what’s really great is because it’s not based on the employment status, if you are a small company and you’re building your team, you can offer and contribute health care to part-time employees and contractors. Typically, this type of work status is not eligible for benefits. This can attract and retain top talent.”
Some plans include dental and vision, with stand-alone products available for less than $10 a month that can be added to any insurance plan.
This past year, Blatt also added indipop Rx. For $15 a month, one can have their generic drugs delivered to their home at no cost.
“If it’s a brand name, you use the discount card at the pharmacy. It’s usually around 60% savings. And if you’re at urgent care, those prescriptions are going to be $0 as well,” she says. “This can be added and used with an insurance plan.”
As Blatt launched the platform amid the pandemic, the remote environment enabled her to bring medicine and doctors to people’s homes through technology.
“The majority of people we spoke with wanted virtual care, especially mental health,” she says. “To actually talk to a provider from the comfort of their own home, they had less of that white coat syndrome. They were able to open up more. They also didn’t have to sit in a waiting room or have to take time off of work.”
She added an on-demand product for $35 a month for the entire family. It not only includes virtual primary care but mental health and medical advocates.
“I think it’s an amazing product because it does so much and for many people,” she adds. “At 2 in the morning, they don’t have options except for the ER, so this gives alternative routes for people to get the care that they need.”
Blatt shares the testimony of a man from Ohio whose teenage daughter was self-harming. With his traditional insurance, there was a six-month waiting period for her to receive care because of the lack of therapists.
Through indipop’s on-demand plan, however, the man’s daughter was able to meet with a therapist within two weeks and start getting the care she needed.
“He actually sent an email to me and she felt like she had support,” Blatt says. “That to me was everything. She was not falling through the cracks of a system where she might eventually have to be hospitalized. Hearing this reaffirmed why I started indipop and to make an impact in the health care industry.”
Due to the demand from people under the age of 35, Blatt wants to offer more mental health services in the future. Her idea is to create a stand-alone mental health plan in 2023, whether it is virtual or in person.
“Any product or plan that I add to indipop is because people want it,” she says. “I’m trying to fill a need that people are coming to me with and going, ‘Hey, is there anything out there?’”
Blatt’s motive for creating indipop stems from her experience upon leaving her deep-rooted career in the corporate realm. She left her previous job in 2019, when she was in her late 40s, to pursue other passions and enjoy the freedom of self-employment.
When researching health care options, she had “sticker shock” when realizing how expensive it was as a 1099 contractor.
“What I found was, even if I could get the premium to an acceptable monthly (charge), the deductibles were between $5,000 to $8,000, which meant if I had to have a surgery, that’s how much money out of pocket (I would be paying),” Blatt says. “So not only was I going to be spending a great expense monthly, but if something did happen, I could potentially go into medical debt.”
The more frustrated she became with the plans’ complex networks and high rates, the more she felt called to help the self-employed find the right health care for their individual needs and not have to forgo insurance.
“The self-employed population is one-third of the workforce, and I don’t think people realize how big it is in this economy, or what they call the Great Resignation, where people are changing careers and more and more people are going out on their own,” she says. “This is an opportunity to serve this workforce with health care, which is probably the No. 1 thing you need in life, or what I believe is your health.”
When setting out to curate a more affordable health care alternative for the self-employed population, Blatt also wanted to partner with healthshares that do not have a statement of faith or tied to a Christian ministry.
The plans offered through indipop are open to all denominations and clients do not have to adhere to faith-based guidelines.
For those who are debating switching to a healthshare plan, Blatt encourages them to explore and compare available plans.
“It’s really about (the fact that) there are options out there, and I think the future of health care, more and more, we’re moving where it is about the person’s needs, making it affordable and accessible and not a one size fits all,” she says.
“People want to stay with their providers and not keep switching based on limited networks or have their treatment dictated by what insurance allows. What you can find through indipop is the freedom to stay with your doctors and hospitals of your choice, this is health care as it is meant to be.
“That’s what I hope people can realize. Indipop is just one aspect in the industry, doing something to put the person first and say, ‘Hey, this is another approach to managing medical needs. Take a look at this, this might be a great fit for you.’”