From Cramped in Cambridge to Comfy on the Common: How We Found Our New Home (Part 1)

It’s been two glorious weeks in our brand new office in downtown Boston. The metaphorical (and literal) dust has finally settled, so we’re ready to tell the story of how we got here. Our Executive Assistant, Kelsey, and Creative Director, Julia, led the search, so we’ll let Kelsey tell it in her own words.

By Kelsey Sullivan

We decided at the end of October that it was time to make an office move due to a lack of space. We had about 15 employees at the time, some of whom were remote, but our office still felt too small for a very fast-paced team who spend a lot of time on the phone (can you say: zero privacy?). Over the next few months, while searching for the new space and then renovating it, we raised our Series A and grew even more, eventually reaching about 30 people working out of a tiny converted apartment in Central Square, Cambridge.

More than just “space”

Our initial criteria was that one crucial thing — more space. As I began searching with our Creative Director, Julia, we learned that we needed to clarify what exactly “more space” meant for our team’s needs. We ended up prioritizing a big open area as the main workspace, with breakout rooms to accommodate people on the phone. We needed a real kitchen (unlike the glorified hallway we called a kitchen in our old space) and a big comfy area for team meetings. We needed a space within our budget… and we needed all of this somewhere on the Red Line of the MBTA.

We saw what felt like an endless number of spaces. At one point, we had our hearts set on Fanueil Hall, so we checked out a lot of offices in that area. In each space, there was a major sticking point that we couldn’t get past. For example, one had perfect price, perfect location, perfect layout… but it was incredibly dark, with small windows far up on the wall and little in the way of natural light. There was no way we could get past that. We also saw a few spaces that might have worked, but required too much work for our tight timeframe. Also, in a lot of the older buildings, the landlords are not as quick to want to help pay for renovations.

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Use your imagination!

That’s why we ended up with the space that we have. As soon as we walked in, we fell in love with the view and the neighborhood. It’s unbelievable to look out the windows and see the Common and the State House’s golden dome. We also really liked that it’s a constantly bustling and busy place with people coming and going, since we’re located directly across from the Park Street T stop. However, the office itself was in total shambles. There were walls and partitions up everywhere with a horrible tile floor and unattractive dropped ceilings. It took a great deal of imagination and planning, but we came up with a plan to take the outdated space and make it our own. The work was totally worth it in the end.

Walking the tightrope of price

Price was another tricky aspect of our search. We had to be conscious of the fact that we’re still a startup, while also maximizing the budget for the best possible space and location we could get. One of the major deciding factors on the cost was that the building owner and landlord were willing to pay for a lot of work that was going to go in to improve the space to get it up to our standards. This benefits them, because in the future, the property will be able to attract better clients, and of course, it benefits us because we get a gorgeous, newly renovated office that’s tailored to our needs, but we don’t have to spend a ridiculous amount of money to get it. This proved to be a much easier option for us than finding an existing space that fit all of our needs. That space just didn’t exist for us in downtown Boston.

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which Kelsey reveals the surprises we came across in our search, who we worked with to make it all possible, and the hardest and most fun parts of the process. Plus, see more Before and After pics of our new digs!

Huckabee vs. Gibbs at the Benefits Selling Expo

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Maxwell Health CEO (right) and Kurt & Ted from our sales team, with Benefits Selling magazine as we waited for Gibbs’ talk to begin

By Ted Phillips, Sales Director

The Maxwell Health team had the opportunity to attend the Benefits Selling Expo this past week in Colorado Springs. We had a fantastic time interacting with many of our awesome broker and carrier partners. For me, the highlight of the week was listening to both keynote speakers, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. What better way to learn about the Affordable Care Act than from two polar opposite politicians? Gibbs, especially, as he was integral in the negotiation and passing of the law several years ago.

Both politicians were compelling to listen to, though Huckabee was far more entertaining. While Gibbs certainly knew he was walking into the lions’ den (and several in the Q&A reminded him of that), he did provide us with some insight around the law and the employer mandate. In the middle of his hour-long talk Gibbs stated with conviction that he thought the employer mandate would be delayed indefinitely, and in fact, in his opinion, the White House would never implement it at all. He downplayed the effects of that particular section of the act, at one point even commenting that it is “insignificant”. His speech was certainly White House-approved and cookie cutter in many ways, yet he delivered these words with an attitude that suggested it was the truth.

My issue is not with Gibbs’ initial comments, but the follow-up, when asked by an audience member when this might be communicated to those affected by the law. This was significant for many in the audience as they have been tasked with helping to implement aspects of the law for their clients. His answer: probably not in 2014, essentially meaning: “keep preparing because you won’t know one way or the other any time soon”. For all of the good that this law has provided, it’s somewhat cancelled out by the sometimes cavalier attitude towards major components of it.

Benefits consultants around the country have invested significant time and money in understanding and helping companies with the compliance issues surrounding the ACA. The prep began prior to its passing and continues through today. When significant pieces are changed, pushed back or altogether left on the side of the road, that time is essentially wasted. Just think what we ideas could have been generated, innovations implemented in plan designs or tools developed had we focused that wasted effort on truly solving the healthcare problem.

Thoughts? Tweet at Ted or share with us in the comments. Concerned about your company’s benefits going into the potential employer mandate — or just in general? Hop onto our weekly employer demo webinar to see how we can help, or get in touch with us.

The Maxwell team at our booth at the Expo.

The beautiful Broadmoor resort, where we were fortunate enough to spend the week.

Best In Benefits: Automattic

By Dan DiBiasio

I recently wrote about the importance of creating a truly unique environment for employees and the necessity of providing great benefits. In order to showcase just how important those things are, we’ve decided to create a blog series here called Best in Benefits. This series will highlight companies that are going above and beyond to keep their employees happy and bring in top candidates.

Today, we’re proud to feature Automattic, a web development company behind fantastic platforms like WordPress.com, who offer one of the most comprehensive and rewarding set of benefits and perks we’ve seen. As a company that lives on the Internet, it’s no surprise they have a very modern approach to their employees’  happiness. All of this great stuff starts at home… literally.

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               Automatticians at their company meetup in Santa Cruz!

In a unique setup, all Automattic “Automatticians” work from home, and Automattic wants their employees to consider home as their primary workspace. Automattic makes sure all their team members are comfortable by paying for a home office setup as well as supplying them with the latest in technology, which includes a new computer every 16 months. The company also has an open vacation policy as they want their employees to feel comfortable and recharged.

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 Enjoying the waters of Puerto Rico are members of Automattic’s Jetpack                                                         team

"It’s great to work with over 200 amazing people every day towards our goal of making the web a better place,” said North Carolina-based Wordpress.com Happiness Engineeer Kris Karkoski. “But being able to work from wherever I want with a flexible schedule and other great benefits that help me keep my work life and personal life in balance makes it even better!"

This perk works well for employees and the company, as they are able to more easily recruit top talent from around the world.

In addition to personal perks, Automattic has fantastic employees benefits. They provide full health, dental, and vision to employees and their families in the US and Canada, and pay 100% of the premiums. They also offer a 6% match on retirement funds.

While employees are encouraged to work from home, Automattic also facilitates company get-togethers and covers all travel expenses. This includes a yearly meetup with the entire company and team meetups 2-4 times a year that can take place anywhere in the world. They also have internal blogs where employees can chat and post ideas and changes to projects.

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        Automatticians and WordPress community members at HackDay in                            Automattic’s former Lounge in San Francisco

“GIFs are also a plentiful part of our communication,” said Kris.

If you don’t believe benefits and perks aren’t just a shiny expense, but can help grow your company, just look at Automattic:

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Their reach has grown substantially over the past year and show no signs of slowing down. They make sure their employees are happy, comfortable, and covered, and in doing, so have created a culture of success that competes with Google and Facebook.

When asked if there was ever a situation in which Automattic’s benefits and perks sealed the deal for  someone they were looking to hire, Automattic HR Lead Lori McLeese simply and emphatically said just one word:

“Yes.”

Somehow, we’re not surprised.

Do you know – or work for – a company that has made it a priority to provide employees with awesome, unique benefits or perks? Let us know by email or Tweeting us!


The ever-extending deadlines of PPACA

First, we saw the employer mandate extended until 2016, and now we’re seeing the enrollment deadline for certain members of the general population extended as well. This extension is for those citizens who have begun enrolling in qualified health plans, but don’t finish their applications by the March 31st deadline. With the two main deadlines of Obamacare being extended to reach the maximum amount of consumers, one has to wonder how much the recent traction of Healthcare.gov has contributed to this. With some more landmarks in recent days as well as their Millenial-targeted ad campaigns, it seems like a smart move.

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  “Must extend…and reach…consumers!” (Source: Marvel Entertainment)

The administration and HHS has been able to generate such an increase in traffic to Healthcare.gov recently that they would have effectively been shooting themselves in the foot by maintaining the March 31st deadline. Granted, this extension is only for people who have begun the process of applying by that date, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a more relaxed enforcement of enrollment rules over the next month.

The fact is this: 6 million people is a great number, but is still short of what the ACA intended to achieve. Sure they “reached” their goal, insomuch as they revised said goal after the fact, but that shows they’re already willing to rework things. Despite the fact that 66% of the uninsured are unaware of the Monday deadline, there was a 15% bump in awareness between February and March. This shows that the administration’s last minute push has been working and they should keep pushing. If they keep at it the way they have been, we stand to see a much larger percentage enrolled by the end of this year.

Health Tech at South by Southwest

By Taylor Pechacek, Product Developer

Taylor heads up the strategy and development of our health engagement platform. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Taylor was right at home at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive event. He was fortunate enough to be invited to speak, and had an incredible time meeting folks, learning, and asking questions. Here’s his recap!

Every year it seems that South by Southwest (SXSW) gets bigger and crazier, but it’s that kind of atmosphere that lets you know the stuff happening there is important. There’s been enough time to let the dust settle from this year’s SXSW to showcase some of the fantastic stuff that was there. The buzz around wearables, health care, and big data was unmistakable - great for companies like Maxwell!

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Health had a much-increased presence at SXSW.

Last year, the health venue was mostly found in the Sheraton Hotel, a good 10-15 minute walk away from the main convention center. However, this year, health took a front row seat next to business. In fact, they actually lumped the two categories together into “Health & Business”, and most health sessions were found in the Hilton, right next to the convention center itself.

I think there is a natural inclination to include health within business, given how important employer-sponsored health insurance and wellness programs are to companies. Companies and individuals have been affected the most by rising healthcare costs, so finding innovative and effective solutions at this intersection makes sense. Most companies are going beyond just looking at the bottom line, realizing that a culture of healthy, happy employees is a long-term strategic advantage.

Personalization and context are key.

Speakers highlighted the importance of making a more personalized user experience. They stressed that technology needs to adapt depending on a user’s specific inputs or environment. This means we should expect to see a more tailored experience that starts to nudge and adjust how users interact with different health products or health care.

Some examples of this are smart messaging at crucial times, or a device knowing when to wake you up at the best time during your natural sleep cycle. Understanding that we are all unique and viewing ourselves as a holistic person will really start to make personalized health a reality. I believe this will only expand on the success of early wearable and tracking applications. After all, we can’t change what we can’t measure, and having the ability to measure ourselves specifically will be a huge advantage for making positive change.

Recombinant properties! Really.

Several panels featured a wide group of people that come from different backgrounds across the health care landscape. This is where I believe true innovation comes from: the recombinant properties of ideas from different viewpoints and expertise. Top executives from wearable companies, sleep scientists, health care providers, designers, and programmers are all joining in on the conversation to improve care and outcomes.

We are starting to see more serious questions of how can this be applied to high risk individuals in a meaningful way. An important question that was raised was how can we maintain the efficacy and trust that come from a doctor with mobile “apps”? Tech entrepreneurs want to push ahead, trying to circumnavigate the traditional medical field because of its (rightfully so) conservative and risk-averse nature. What they are finding is that involving these key health care institutions and players can be an advantage. We should start to see more consolidation between carriers, providers, tech companies, and designers among many others that all contribute to the overall health care experience.

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Focus on understanding data, not just collecting it.

This year, I believe we are truly starting to see a focus on what to do with the data we are collecting. Many of the panelists and companies expressed an interest in partnering together and using this data in new ways. If you believe that the driving force of innovation is combining ideas, then we are at an unprecedented time and will see mHealth in its breakout growth phase over the next 5 years.

We are just now seeing the first aggregators, both on the backend such as HealthGraph, Qualcomm’s 2net, and MapMyFitness opening their API to give access to multiple devices and apps. Also, consumer facing services like TicTrac and the first movers in wearable tech are adding different services to their in-app experience to make a truly aggregated experience. 

This ability to pull in different data sets makes information and data collection more of a commodity. Now, we can focus on the right experience to provide meaningful insight and action, think Google Now but as a personal health coach. The aim is making sure you are at an optimal level of health and doing all those small things that add up to paint the bigger picture. However, there is still a major hurdle as to who provides this platform to pull data from and more importantly where and when consumers interact with it.

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How important is SXSW for innovation?

Venues like South by Southwest are extremely important to bring together people from different backgrounds to solve very complex problems. We must work together to understand the different systems involved, their pros and cons of each to start to mesh them into a single experience for the end user: ourselves.

It is this ability to engage in discussion, face-to-face, that usually generates some of the best opportunities to innovate. I would argue that the conference is only half of the equation. People that go need to follow up with the connections they made and continue the conversation after.

Even if there were no truly breakout innovations that happened at SXSW, I believe most of the time, it’s the questions that are most important. The essence of human beings is to ask questions, not answer them. SXSW is and should remain a question-provoking experience, and it certainly was that for me.

If you want to keep up on the latest on health tech and mobile health, or have any questions for Taylor, check him out on Twitter!

A final push to bring in the young invincibles

by Dan DiBiasio

With only days left to enroll under ACA, we’ve seen a huge push from the White House to get the uninsured insured. As always, they’re putting most of their energy into appealing to the “young invincibles”, they’ve been targeting since day one (the “young invincible” is an 18-25 year old that feels they are healthy enough to not require insurance). It started with the Zach Galifianakis video last week, and since then we’ve seen LeBron James, a bunch of Silicon Valley “geeks”, celebrity moms, and a bracket featuring Michelle Obama GIFs and cat pictures. All of this content is catered towards this young, internet-savvy generation — but the question is, will it work?

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Source: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Now, we know that the Galifianakis video definitely seemed to have an impact on traffic to Healthcare.gov right away. We’ll have to wait and see on these new ones, but the campaigns are very similar, so it’s likely we could see another bump in traffic to the site. We might not learn the answer for a little while, but recent stats show about 60% of this audience will enroll, so that’s a promising sign for President Obama’s oft-troubled initiative.

However, another big question raised by these late campaigns is, why did it take so long? It still seems like a huge opportunity was missed by not producing this content earlier. Since the very beginning, President Obama has been adamant that the young invincibles were the most important demographic for ACA, yet only now are we seeing a very strong push. The administration has definitely spent plenty of money on these campaigns, as have many others, attempting to pull in this audience. One can only wonder what their effect might have been had they started campaigns like this months ago.

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Only time will tell if these splashy marketing initiatives will have a big impact, but on the surface they seem to be working. It will be interesting to see how this plays out after the deadline passes at the end of this month, as well as how the White House’s strategy will change after the deadline. Stay tuned!

One of the new players in ACA is…Zach Galifianakis?

by Dan DiBiasio

It’s probably a safe bet that no one anticipated a fake interview happening between President Obama and Zach Galifianakis. It’s probably an even safer bet that no one anticipated that it would also create a surge of traffic to Healthcare.gov. Yet, both of those things happened this week.

Image source: FunnyorDie.com, http://bit.ly/1i2HjV9

The video went up on Monday and shortly after, Tara McGuinness, Senior Communications Advisor at the White House, reported that Funny or Die was the main source of referrals to Healthcare.gov. As of the writing of this post, traffic on Healthcare.gov had increased 40% since Monday.

So, what went so right to cause these surprising numbers – and why?

First, Obama was surprisingly great. Like him or not, the President definitely has a sense of humor, and was able to hold his own comedically. Also, he didn’t try to hide anything and at one point said straight out:

         ”I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have something to plug.”

Second, it built awareness among the most important demographic for HHS: Millenials. The number of people who actually clicked through to Healthcare.gov may not be astronomical, but 12 million views in two days? That’s the kind of awareness ACA has needed, especially considering Funny or Die’s target audience of young people.

Lastly, it hit the key points. The President hammered home the deadline to enroll, his thoughts on the affordability, and spoke to the audience of young people he knew would see this video. Many of these things, especially the deadline, have been lost on the younger generation since the site went live last November.

If the White House wants to continue to build awareness, these types of viral marketing events will be a huge tool for them. It will be interesting to see what comes of this in the long run. They can’t ignore the effect it has, had so one has to wonder if they are planning anything else like this. It seems unlikely that they’ll capture lightning in a bottle again, but if they can keep creating success this way, we may see ACA gain a little more traction, especially among the youth, leading up to that pesky enrollment deadline of March 31.

5 Health and Wellness Blogs You Need to Start Following

by Dan DiBiasio

1. Cleveland Clinic

Our good friends over at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness blog are always putting together great pieces on wellness. One thing that separates them is how their wellness blogs tie in advice about medical conditions (which makes sense, considering the Clinic is one of the leading ACOs in the country). They cover conditions ranging from adult ADHD all the way to stroke, and give actionable tips on dealing with them. These tips, along with healthy recipes and advice, make them one of our favorite blogs to follow.

2. Greatist

One of my favorite things about Greatist is that every day they feature a new recipe and workout. I always look forward to taking 10 minutes every afternoon to head over to their homepage, or check their daily newsletter, and see what they have that day. In addition to this daily content, they have an awesome section specifically devoted to improving happiness. Their happiness page has supplied me with some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

3. NY Times Well Blog

The thing that makes Well such a unique blog is the ability for readers to ask questions of the NY Times journalists and experts. Featured right on the front page, you can see questions asked by readers and vote on the ones you’d like to see answered. It’s cool because you get to see what other readers are interested in and the blog authors use it to create some more tailored content.

4. The Blog of Tim Ferris

I myself am a HUGE advocate of Ferris and his “4-Hour Life” way of thinking about health and mental well-being. I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of his “4-Hour Body” plan, which helped me lose 30 pounds in about 4 months. On his blog, Ferris shares a lot of the knowledge he has accumulated over the years, and often has the science to back up his thoughts. Ferris is all about transforming and empowering your life. The best thing about his blog is the amount of variety to it. He talks about health, mental wellness, succeeding in business, productivity, and pretty much anything that you can think of and he does it in a very interesting style.

5. Lifehacker

While not technically a wellness blog, you’d be hard pressed to NOT feel better after using some of the tricks found on Lifehacker. Lifehacker features dozens of ways to “hack” every aspect of your life, all which are are typically easy (and usually cheap) to do. Using their tips can definitely lower your stress levels and more often than not save you a few bucks you’ve been wasting in other places.

Making your company a place people want to be

by Dan DiBiasio

Offering people compelling benefits packages and employee perks has always been an important element in attracting and retaining employees. However, between the newer generation of workers and the changing health care environment, and as evidenced by the best companies to work at the past few years, companies will need to do even more before they lose employees to those competing employers who are going above and beyond

One of the first big changes employers have to face is the attitude of millenials. While in previous generations, employees were more concerned with their salaries, this younger generation would rather have more comprehensive benefits. As a young company ourselves, we can definitely vouch for that. Our team is super grateful for the benefits Maxwell covers, including a matching 401(k) to ensure our futures and save for retirement. For us, that’s just icing on an awesome cake, but for others, benefits like that may be the thing that helps keep employees from looking elsewhere.

In addition to comprehensive benefits, younger people want perks such as transportation benefits, snacks and meals, gym memberships, among other things. Again, you can see a lot of it revolves around health. Our generation wants work to be a place that actively supports our personal health. Thankfully, there are numerous perks you can offer to make employees happier and healthier at the same time. Wellness programs are another great tool for engaging employees and improving their attitudes. The added bonus of perks like this? Because you’re making your employees happier and healthier, you’re likely to see an increase in satisfaction and a decrease in your out-of-pocket health care costs.

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the most profitable or financially stable companies in the world, like Google, are often ranked as top companies to work at each year. However, it wouldn’t be far fetched to assume that a large part of their success is because of how they treat their employees. Sure, not every company can have a Disneyland inspired campus like Facebook, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to create the kind of company that people actively pursue and love to tell their friends about. You want to create moments at your company like this one (from the day I was hired):

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Moments like these are signs you are doing right by your employees and making your company a better place to work. The happier and healthier your employees are the more successful your company will be.

Even in B2B, Consumers Always Come First

By Daria Caritano, Operations Manager and Customer Delight Team Senior Associate

Rewind back to the fall of 2012, just before our team had dreamt up the idea for Maxwell Health and were brainstorming ways to take what we’d learned from DailyFeats and go above and beyond. We imagined fitness apps, meal delivery services, virtual life coaches, and everything in between. The one common theme that was intrinsically tied to all of those ideas made our company focus clear: we wanted to change health care for better and make it easy for people to be healthy. Daunting? Yes. Achievable? Definitely.

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One of our team’s favorite quotes that hangs in the office for a bit of inspiration.

Why Health Insurance?

To reach this goal on a large scale, we realized it made sense to interact with people at an important juncture in their lives, when health was top of mind. The point at which someone buys their health insurance was the perfect opportunity, so our team of tech entrepreneurs, behavior change buffs, and developers decided to dive into the world of benefits. At that time, our team barely knew an HMO from HBO and there was a lot of learning to be done. (Update: HMO = more copays and primary care referrals, HBO = more dragons and plot twists). We became licensed insurance brokers, hired experts in the field, and familiarized ourselves with the nitty gritty complexities of our nation’s ever-changing insurance system.

Hit the Phones

Customer development calls were a vital part of our initial learnings. We spoke with tons of people who had interacted with the health care system in some way - dealing with insurance claims, booking doctor appointments, signing up for insurance, etc. Through those calls and our research, we learned a few major things:

  1. The current health care system has lots of room for improvement

  2. There’s a lack of cost transparency and consumer education, so people pay for benefits that they don’t really understand or utilize to the fullest

  3. Just having health insurance, doesn’t necessarily correlate with people being healthier

  4. The insurance industry needs to adapt modern technology to become more efficient and accessible

In order to solve these major pain points, our team knew we’d have to actively engage employees in their health care and empower them to be healthier and smarter consumers. We started by creating a platform for individuals and employees of small businesses to purchase insurance and… wait for it…. actually understand and take advantage of their benefits. We translated coverage summaries from medical mumbo-jumbo into clear and concise explanations, provided a health advocate service to save people time and money navigating the health system, created a mobile app for convenience, and a wellness program to reward people for being healthy.

A Slight Pivot

The positive response we received from companies and members was extremely encouraging - they appreciated that we were different. For an industry that should be intrinsically people- focused, it often seems as if the insurance world doesn’t necessarily have its members’ well-being at its core. We’re proud to be an exception and are working to make our fresh and humanistic approach to benefit, the norm.

To do that, we decided to shift our distribution channel from selling directly to employers and members to working with awesome broker partners who leverage our technology and share our philosophy. This approach not only allows us to reach more members, more quickly, but now we can also focus on improving our technology platform and wellness program, while our brokers provide the top-notch benefits administration employees everywhere deserve.

…But Consumers Are Still #1

Though our strategy has changed, our customer focus will always remain an integral part of our company’s core principles (check them out below). Working for Maxwell, we deal with insurance carriers and health providers everyday, but outside of work we’re all customers too. We bring bribe our two-year-olds with gifts to get their first booster shots, rush to the emergency room when things don’t go as planned, and get our annual physicals. We’ve experienced first-hand that these visits can be frustrating to schedule, scary to experience, and result in confusing bills and paperwork. That’s why we’re working hard everyday to make sure that Maxwell is here to take care of the headaches surrounding keeping your family healthy, so you can focus on them.

We’re always looking for ways to make our product more valuable to our members. If you have ideas on how to make your interaction with the health care and benefits systems better or ways to keep your family healthy, we’d love to hear from you! Please send any ideas to daria@maxwellhealth.com.