Kitchener-Waterloo-based startup Samos Insurance is dead set on filling an important gap in Canadians’ existing insurance coverage.
Samos has launched a new digital insurance product, backed by Berkley Insurance, that offers protection for accidental death during planned surgical procedures. The Y Combinator insurtech startup provides patients set to undergo scheduled medical procedures like cesarean sections, joint replacements, and heart surgeries with coverage against accidental death.
“Waterloo is a big startup town … but it’s also a big insurance town.”
-Eric Blondeel, Samos
Led by Kenota Health co-founder Eric Blondeel as CEO, insurance industry veteran Leon Punambolam as COO, and Crunchyroll and Flatiron Health alum Matt Eggertson as CTO, Samos claims its newly launched product is “the world’s first surgical accidental death insurance.”
“Our understanding, from speaking with professionals in the insurance industry, is that this is a first of its kind,” Blondeel told BetaKit in an interview.
The premise behind Samos came to Blondeel shortly after he left his role as CTO of Kenota Health, when he was sitting on a hospital gurney and about to undergo a surgical procedure, and tried to access insurance on his cellphone. “I started searching for whether or not something like that was available, and it wasn’t,” said Blondeel. “Somewhat unhealthily, I started searching what’s the likelihood I was going to die in the next few hours.”
Fortunately, Blondeel’s surgery went well, but the idea of providing insurance to others undergoing medical procedures stuck with him.
“It just kind of occurred to me that, where there is risk, there’s usually mitigation in the form of insurance,” said Blondeel. “And with the statistics available, it should be possible to buy [an insurance] product for the [medical] procedure that I was about to undergo—the same way that when you go to fly to Cuba, you can get travel insurance.”
Blondeel teamed up with Punambolam and Eggertson to build a proprietary comprehensive risk model for a variety of surgical procedures.
“Waterloo is a big startup town—which is fantastic—but it’s also a big insurance town,” said Blondeel. “We have the headquarters of lots of major insurers here, so it didn’t take me very long to get connected to some insurance professionals and to validate the idea that you could structure an insurance product against the risk of accidental death during surgery.”
Punambolam previously held leadership positions at Manulife, Cowan Insurance Group, and the Canada Protection Plan. According to Blondeel, he brings to Samos “a wide understanding of the structure of the [insurance] industry,” and a clear sense of how he wants to see it grow and be sold differently to consumers.
Broader accidental death insurance products often include specific exclusions for surgeries and medical procedures. Blondeel claims that many of these policies were written “decades ago.”
“Research and development in medical care has advanced in that time, as well as the available statistics,” said Blondeel. “Today, we’re able to confidently look at the risks involved for these individual procedures, and provide these policies. To a certain extent, that’s the secret sauce of Samos is that we’ve built this model.”
Samos doesn’t exclude applicants based on pre-existing conditions or require medical examinations. Its premiums factor in the risk of the specific type of medical procedure, patient age, and the amount of coverage desired.
The startup’s insurance product is currently available in Ontario. Blondeel said Samos hopes to roll it out across Canada this summer, before later moving into the United States.
Samos is also planning to expand to cover a larger proportion of elective procedures and move beyond just planned surgeries to medical emergency and acute surgeries, which are often riskier.
“We want to create something for patients, particularly patients that might not otherwise be able to find insurance,” said Blondeel. “We’re creating this to fill that gap as we see it, and … make the entire experience of surgery a little bit easier.”
Feature image courtesy Samos Insurance.