Qliance Nails $6M From Bezos, Dell, Drew Carey for Primary Care That Avoids Insurance

4/27/10Follow @xconomy

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to get to where it is now. The company had to lobby hard in the Washington state legislature in 2007 to make sure lawmakers understood the business model avoids insurance, and therefore shouldn’t be covered by state insurance regulations. Last year, the legislature made it possible for employers and self-insured health plans to pay direct primary health care providers as part of an employee health benefit program, as is commonly done with traditional health insurance. That has enabled Qliance to sign up more than 70 employers to its monthly primary care service, which allows their employees access to primary care clinics in downtown Seattle, Kent, and Mercer Island.

The new round of financing will help Qliance take this vision of “direct primary care” beyond Washington state. Wu personally spent a lot of time in the past year paying close attention to the national healthcare reform debate, and enlisting allies like Sen. Maria Cantwell, the Washington state Democrat, to make sure that the new law wouldn’t create any barriers to Qliance’s model (regardless of whether insurance companies might like to stop it).

The new law that President Obama signed last month, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, allows states to begin operating insurance exchanges in 2014, which makes it easier for small businesses and individuals to buy health care. What few people realize is that Wu’s advocacy apparently paid off, because “direct primary care” models like Qliance will be able to compete in those state insurance exchanges.

You can bet the full $6 million that just went into Qliance that not a dollar would have materialized if the new health reform law had created new obstacles to Qliance’s plan to expand nationally. That’s still a long way off since the company is still in its early days. But the market potential, as Wu noted in our original profile in December 2008, is about as big as it gets. Capturing a meaningful slice of the market—in which 250 million people in the U.S. need primary care services at an average price of about $50 a month—is the hard part.

“Our growth will not be limited by market potential, but by our ability to execute,” Wu said in the original story.

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