Canadian digital benefits platform League is expanding into the United States, with plans to be in the largest 10 metropolitan areas by the summer of 2018.

“We thought, from the beginning, we would be a better fit for the U.S. market,” says League founder Mike Serbinis, citing the need for prevention, health and wellness services given the high rate of metabolic disease and diabetes in the United States.

Also, the United States is a large market for employer-sponsored health plans because of the complexity of its health-care system. “I actually find it quite funny when I’m watching CNN and health care comes up and people mention Canada and say our Canadian system is so regulated,” says Serbinis.

“I’ve never seen anything like the level of the regulation in the U.S.,” he adds.

Read: How can big insurers, new tech-focused players work together?

For those reasons, League has to roll out state by state, starting with Illinois and Washington. According to Serbinis, “the Illinois market is practically bigger than the Canadian market, so it made a lot of sense to plant our flag there and put our headquarters in Chicago. . . . It’s a huge market for businesses offering benefits and a great talent for tech as well.”

The way the delivery of health care is changing is almost “country agnostic,” says Tim Clarke of TC Health Consulting. “The U.S. is a very different health-care system, but the general concepts around individual flexibility and choice, making it a good member experience, trying to engage employees in their health as well as their benefits programs . . . when you talk about it in broad, general terms like that, I think that does apply across borders.”

Read: League launches health and wellness benefits platform

League, which launched its digital health benefits platform in Canada in 2014, enables small- and medium-sized businesses to build a health plan with features including health and lifestyle accounts; paperless transactions; and a pay-per-use model so employers only pay for what their employees use. The company also provides access to on-site services, such as biometric screening, mental-health programs and yoga classes.

While the company is looking to its U.S. expansion, business in Canada is thriving, says Serbinis, noting League is aiming to surpass $100 million in business in 2017 and reach $1 billion by the end of next year. The company, according to Serbinis, previously had a bigger focus on smaller business with contracts as low as $10,000. “We still do those but we do seven- and eight-figure contracts now. We found that the problem of the health benefits experience in traditional products is not purely [a small-business] problem.”

Read: New online platform joins roster of benefits disruptors

But with a number of new online technology platforms joining the fray, is the marketplace becoming too competitive? Serbinis notes the United States is more competitive. “Unlike our Canadian incumbents, the U.S. incumbents being in a more competitive market, they’ve just invested more in technology.”

Clarke notes there has been a huge upswing in the past three to five years in new companies creating technology that helps people support their own health, both in the workplace and for individuals. “I think health care is one of those areas a lot of companies are looking at, saying there’s potential to do something new and different here. . . . And that’s both big, established players, as well as new players,” he says.

Editor’s note: Comments from Clarke added June 20 at 12 p.m.

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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