February 2, 2021

Meet the Nava Team: Jason Wilson

The Nava Team

In this series, Nava will introduce you to a different member of our team who'll share their thoughts on Nava, the industry, and the mission ahead. Read on to learn more about what brought Jason to Nava:

Tell us a bit about yourself:

My passion for programming started when I received a copy of Borland Turbo C++ 3.0 in the 4th grade. I'd often stay up into the early hours of the morning programming instead of studying. That late-night hobby became my career, and I've been working across B2B and B2C tech companies for the last 16 years. Over that time I've become a computing polyglot, recognizing through experience the importance of choosing the right language for the job, versus forcing one to work. I've gone from building a framework from the ground up that was used by a team of 200 at one of the largest aerospace companies in the world, to designing recommender systems from scratch for a major retailer, to cofounding a start-up that was ultimately five years too far into the future and had to shut it down. The common thread throughout all of these experiences is the challenge of bringing something into the world that never existed before.

In my spare time, you'll find me backcountry skiing, traveling (well, at least before 2020), and trail running, a new passion born out of COVID-19 that's provided a nice retreat from the world.

Why healthcare? And why Nava?

Just like millions of people around the country, I've personally experienced the frustrations of navigating our healthcare system after receiving a pesky "diagnosis" in 2006. Having a dreaded pre-existing condition before the Affordable Care Act presented challenges whenever switching jobs — would I be eligible for the insurance? would the cost be manageable? would there be a waiting period and if so, how would that affect my treatment plan? For years, I lived with a "what if" in the back of my mind — what if something goes badly, what if I go bankrupt trying to deal with this on my own? The ACA's passage certainly helped me sleep a little easier as it solved some major problems, but I found that we still had the same cartel of major players controlling the distribution, cost, and quality of healthcare. When I had to get an MRI, it turned out that my radiologist didn't obtain the needed pre-authorization and as a result, I was on the hook for over $3,000 in bills — even though I had nothing to do with that oversight, and had no choice in the provider or delivery of care. All I did was follow my doctor's orders. It took months to fight that — months that pulled my focus from work and my personal life. And I know I'm not alone. There are probably hundreds (if not thousands) of these situations taking place every single day.

Thinking through the health insurance landscape in general coupled with my personal experience got me excited about Nava's mission, and its novel approach to disrupting this space through being a modern, transparent, accountable brokerage. As a business owner, I've had to navigate the wild world of employee benefits selection for my company, and let me tell you - it was painful. But, it made me realize how ripe for innovation this industry is. And even outside of the immediate opportunity of changing the brokerage model, I'm excited about Nava's longer-term vision of building a marketplace where we really have some leverage in driving cost efficiencies for employers.

What do you find so interesting about the benefits brokerage space specifically?

It amazes me just how antiquated this employee benefits world is. There's a dearth of even the most basic technology to drive efficiency, transparency, and visibility for the employer (and the employee!). Take the example of census spreadsheets: employers are sending emails with 20 different PDFs attached, logging into multiple systems, and dare I say... even faxing documents. How is that other industries — travel, online advertising, home insurance, real estate to name a few — can figure out real-time quoting but healthcare can't?

What's one aspect of employer benefits that you are most excited to reinvent?

As a programmer, I'm excited at the prospect of applying technology to improve efficiency in the broader employer-sponsored healthcare marketplace. In the near-term, that could mean transparency: the interface between the broker and the employer, and providing more meaningful and actionable insight into the healthcare plan itself. This could look like giving employers tools to better understand how they're doing relative to their peers, or making data available to guide their plan choice. Data access is a particularly complex technology issue I'm navigating. Since this industry is so closed-off, getting access to any - let alone, enough - health-related data sets to build our proprietary insights on top of is challenging, forcing us to be creative and strategic about how we're accessing, connecting, and activating information.

Before working at Nava, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

When I was in 6th grade I started a custom t-shirt company using inkjet printer transfer paper. I created marketing materials and told everyone about my new venture. Anticipating strong demand, I bulk-ordered t-shirts from a wholesaler and wiped the shelves clean of transfer paper - a bold investment decision for an 11 year-old. Ultimately I had one paying customer and the business failed to take off... but I wouldn't change a thing.

What do you hope to accomplish with Nava over the next year? The next five years?

Over the next year, I want to scale the engineering team and work collectively to build data-fueled, employer-facing tools that HR leaders can explore, test, and respond to. In five years, I want Nava to apply technology and data to the brokerage space that levels the playing field and provides broader access to healthcare for all Americans.

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