Health Insurance

Insurance Expert Q&A With Lively’s COO, Shobin Uralil

Together, Shobin Uralil, the COO of Lively, and its cofounder Alex Cyriac saw an opportunity to overhaul the health savings account (HSA) process and provide savings opportunities to individuals and families alike. With this goal in mind, Lively was founded in 2016.
Shobin Uralil Lively
Shobin Uralil Lively Source: Getty Images

Choosing the right health insurance plan is a common struggle. We all want to ensure sufficient coverage in the event of illness or accident without overpaying for unneeded benefits. Lively, a health startup that allows individuals to manage their health savings accounts (HSAs), prioritizes the need for optimized health care spending for maximized savings.

While looking for your optimal plan, Lively suggests a high-deductible health plan could make sense for many demographics. For young working Americans who rarely go to the doctor, for example, why pay high premiums for a service you may not use? Instead, take the savings and put them into a health savings account. Or for adults about to retire, the IRS allows you to put in an extra $1,000 every year over age 55.

In speaking with Shobin Uralil, ValuePenguin wanted to understand what types of individuals Lively is best suited for and the company's plans for the future. He shared that Lively simplifies saving for health care and is designed specifically around the consumer and their spending, saving and investing needs. Anyone with an eligible high-deductible health plan can benefit from the long-term savings potential HSAs provide.

Uralil also named a few additional benefits, including:

  • 100% fee free for individual account holders
  • Self-directed investments through TD Ameritrade, with no minimum balance to invest
  • Mobile access to your HSA and receipt upload through mobile app or mobile web
  • Stellar customer service for individuals and employers
  • Seamless integration with employer HR software

Why do you feel there was a need for Lively in the marketplace?

The HSA landscape is growing but, unfortunately, not in a way that prioritizes the consumer. HSAs have been around for quite some time, with big names like HSA Bank, HealthEquity, Optum Bank, Further, HSA Authority and Bank of America, but Lively is novel in putting the end user first and eliminating the heavy fees common in these more established firms.

We believe every American should have access to tools that enable them to save for health care, and we've worked to provide an accessible, zero-fee HSA and investments through TD Ameritrade to ensure that consumers are putting themselves in a position to better afford their future health care expenses.

Talk to us about how the online products offered by Lively differ from those on other platforms

We are constantly working on new tools to make it easier for our users to save on health care. Our newest tool is our iOS mobile app, bringing the power of a Lively HSA to your smartphone. Other tools on our website include a savings calculator and an eligibility calculator, to help consumers decide how much to contribute to their accounts, as well as a health plan cost calculator to bring ease to plan comparisons.

Lively's intelligent HSA marketplace makes it easy for users to find IRS-approved, HSA-eligible items without wasting hours on the IRS website. We not only make it easy and intuitive for users to maximize their health savings and retirement funds, but we also make it simple for customers to keep their savings as they move between jobs.

As HSA popularity increases, what will Lively do to stay at the forefront of innovation?

HSAs have been around for a long time, but we're focused on growing and innovating to build a contemporary product that not only automates the manual and tedious tasks for employers, but also continues to provide value to consumers. We are one of the only no-fee, no-strings-attached HSAs on the market, which allows more Americans with eligible high-deductible health plans to harness the financial opportunity offered by HSAs now and into their retirement.

This is why we're the No. 1 consumer-rated HSA on the market. We believe consumer engagement is what allows people to get the most out of their HSA. We are incorporating personalized engagement supported by data science activity and analysis to help guide our customers to make the right decisions at the right time, and it's only the beginning of our work to build the future of how Americans interact with their health care dollars.

How do you see consumer behavior and thoughts about HSAs and health insurance evolving in the future?

HSAs are the last lifeline in a sea of rising health care costs. We predict that every health plan will eventually evolve into a high-deductible health plan, and our goal is to educate people about their need to couple that health plan with an HSA — and then how to use it to its full advantage.

Our look into last year's data shows us that people are just trying to stay afloat. Increasing HSA contribution limits, expanding HSA-eligible expenses and letting more Americans take advantage of HSAs would help put more savings into the pockets of people across the country and further reduce the financial burden of ever-growing health care costs.

What is the one thing about the HSA and health insurance industry as a whole that keeps you up at night?

I think it would be the rising costs of health care. We hear so many stories of how more and more Americans are struggling to afford their health care costs, and we want to do our part to give them a real chance at affording those expenses. This is the reason that Alex and I stepped into this space and started Lively, and we've watched as health care costs continue to outpace inflation.

This means that Americans will spend more out of pocket each year, and I fear that the majority of people will not have enough saved for retirement. The average couple will need $285,000 for medical expenses in retirement — on top of Medicare. This is an unfathomable number for anyone, especially folks who have not taken steps early to prepare for it.

What makes an HSA even better than a 401(k) for retirement planning?

HSAs are the only triple tax-advantaged account in the US, which makes them an incredibly powerful way for people to save for their future health care expenses. And at 65, health savings account funds can be put toward any expenses and taxed the exact same way as a 401(k) — ordinary income taxes at that time.

Additionally, with HSAs, there are no required minimum distributions, so as people continue to live (and work) longer, they can plan accordingly. This little-known fact can increase your spending runway in retirement by several full years!