In Obamacare, tech entrepr
Sanjay Singh, CEO hCentive
When th Affordable Care Act was being debated in Congress most Americans
yawned if they even bothered reading the bill's fine print—but t
Sanjay Singh's eye opened wide when he downloa
aded the pr
As he re the bill closely, one section of it drew Sin
ngh's attention. "It talk about
individua state exc
changes. It talked abou a federall data hub," he said.
tive is reap
ping a majo windfall—
online health insura
anges for se
everal state enabling insurance companies to
connect with all 51 governmen
hanges, and moving to exploit the new but
potentially large pri
ance exchange market
Singh sa the idea of insuran plans ba
attling in an online ma
arket for millions of
custome sounded like "Expe
edia for hea care."
"How do you build an Expedia for health care?" the CEO of hC
He knew it would re
equire a tec
latform, and since ope
ening in 200 with a
handful of employe
ees, Reston Va.-based hCentive is on track to hire its 5
acare as it has becom known—
—has been the driving f
force for ou
inception and grow
wth," said Singh. "If I were to gues I would say we'd be at maybe 600
[employees] by the end of 201 he said The comp
pany expec to generate about $35
million in revenue next year.
(Read more: Ignor
rance of Ob
bamacare threatens its succes
When Singh spoke to CNBC, he and his employees were scra
ambling to g a slew o
work done before Oct. 1—the date when the Obam acare exch
hanges are set to begin
enrolling people in insurance plans that take effect iin January.
"Right outside my door there is a reverse counting c
clock," Sing said.
A marrie 46-year-old with two kids, Sing had expe
erience wit a technol
start-up before foun
tware servic company GlobalL
Logic in 19 "in my b
Fourteen years late GlobalLo
ogic has mo than 7, 000 employ
(Read more: Obam
macare quirk: Your in
costs could go up)
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CNBC's Ric Santelli talks with Daniel Ste
ecich, TJM Instit
tutional Services about the loo
oming fight on C
Capitol Hill to fun the
Affordable Care Act.
In addition to his te backgro
ound, Singh said he ha a "deep" interest in public policy
"I just love it," Singh said. "I'm a public po
olicy geek. This is my fantasy foo
t-run exchanges, also known as m
marketplace will give uninsured
people a place to buy affordab compre
ance from a range of
competing plans. Many of those people would be elligible for ta credits to offset the cost
of the insurance, an would have their in
rified via the federal da hub.
Singh sai the idea of building suc a platform was particularly attractiv to him bec
exchange were effec
ctively virgin territory.
"You normally want to start a business in a new are he said. "It levels t playing field
for an en
ntrepreneur going aga
ainst the big companie ... We go started b
thought exchanges would be a big oppor
(Read more: How businesses can prep
pare for the next San
ge for a state‐b
"Three, or four, five years from now, down the
road, all the systems are going to look very
differently from the way they did on day one."
Sanjay Singh, hCentive CEO
In addition to helping implement the state-run exchanges in New York, Colorado and
Kentucky, hCentive recently was awarded a contract to work with Illinois, which plans to
run its own exchange in 2015 after letting the federal government operate the exchange
there in 2014.
And there is room for hCentive to expand its business of setting up government-run
exchanges. That's because some of the 34 states whose exchanges are being run by,
or in conjunction with the federal government may end up operating their own
exchanges, and hiring companies like hCentive to implement them.
"That's the next wave of business," Singh said.
And after Obama was re-elected last year—effectively killing Republicans' hopes of
repealing Obamacare—"demand just went through roof" from insurance companies who
needed to connect online with the exchanges, Singh said.
(Read more: Doctors confused, skeptical of Obamacare)
"This year we signed 10 to 12 payers or insurance companies," he said. "As late as
today, when were are [close to Oct.1] we are getting requests from payers to help them
connect to state exchanges."
The company is also being kept busy by the fact that the federal government has been
routinely issuing regulations and updated guidance that relates to the exchanges even
as the Oct. 1 deadline gets ever closer. Those announcements often require making
changes to the technology and interfaces that Singh's company is implementing.
"CMS changes things on an almost daily basis," he said, referring to the federal Centers
for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "We literally spend hours every day listening to
CMS conference calls."
Even as Singh and his company work to get set for the open-enrollment date, "we are
already talking to states about implementing a 'phase two,' things we could not deliver
by Oct. 1."
"Three, or four, five years from now, down the road, all the systems are going to look
very differently from the way they did on Day One," he said.
Along with business related to the government-run exchanges, hCentive is expanding
into the private exchange market.
Those private exchanges give workers and individuals a broader range of insurance
plans than might otherwise be available from traditional benefits plans offered by
employers. For now, they are a tiny part of the overall U.S. insurance market, but
analysts expect them to grow dramatically as employers try to hold down benefits costs.
Singh said hCentive has positioned itself to take advantage of the private exchange
market, "if these exchanges do take off."
"One of our goals is that by 2017, 10 percent of the U.S. population at that time, when
they access their health benefits, they will do so leveraging or touching our technology,"
he said. "Either they will be shopping on our platform, or we will enable that