Innovative insurance company Oscar bidding for N.J. business

    (Electronic Image via

    (Electronic Image via

    New Jersey residents shopping for health insurance this fall will have more choices. The high-tech company Oscar is joining the Obamacare marketplace.

    The New York-based company looks more like a Silicon Valley start-up than a traditional insurer. Named after a co-founder’s great-grandfather, the firm is backed by $165 million in venture capital. It offers customers slick online tools for finding nearby specialists and tracking medical records, with a website look that is sure to appeal to a smartphone devotees. Patients can also request that a doctor give them a call to discuss symptoms.

    “The health care system has been stuck in the 80s, in terms of having to call to make appointments, having to do everything by fax” said Linda Schwimmer with the  New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, calling Oscar a big leap from what most competitors can offer.

    The leap in technology may not be enough to lure consumers, cautioned Scott Harrington, a professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “When it comes to insurance, it’s all about price, price, price,” he said. And those rates aren’t yet public .

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    “I think it is good for consumers in New Jersey to have another option that may be different,” said Harrington. “The market will determine in the next year or two whether or not this looks like it is actually a better deal.”

    Oscar will only be offering plans in nine northern and central New Jersey counties for 2015, but intends on expanding statewide.

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