Andy Kim, the CEO of Babylon Health, doesn’t use the term “AI.” Rather, he talks about artificial intelligence systems, rather than machines. He sees the capabilities of the current generation of such systems as “at least as good as today’s machines.”
Does he mean as good as those humans are capable of? Not really.
The problem, Kim says, is that the limits of humans—the limitation of our minds and our attention spans—are nothing compared to the limits of machines. As computers get better, however, humans may have to learn to control themselves to the same degree as computers can.
What’s fascinating about Kim’s approach is that Babylon Health is leveraging AI to do the hard work of making healthcare accessible to every person on earth. The company’s growth in the last year and a half is exponential, making it the fastest growing insurance company in the world.
Babylon, which now offers health insurance for 98 countries, started the year with a team of 20 employees, and today it has a staff of 300. Kim says his company is now five times larger than Swiss Re, the largest reinsurance company in the world.
“AI,” says Kim, “can do 50% of the work that humans do.”
Kim wants to turn technology into a “common good” that could benefit everyone, and his results are starting to show.
In the first half of this year, Babylon’s total user growth hit 700,000. This represents more than 100% growth and is more than more than half the US population.
Through the first half of the year, the number of paid users of Babylon was 130,000. This represents approximately 40% of the UK population.
In 2017, Babylon was responsible for 1% of all UK medical insurance premiums, paid out to 650,000 people. Kim has said that Babylon users do not pay any excess that isn’t already covered.
He now wants Babylon to cover 60% of all UK medical insurance.
Babylon has some big plans, and there is every reason to believe that the company will make it.
Take Babylon’s new plan: Get Access. People have a choice of two types of plan: Expensive, with three specialists for a daily visit for $34, and Easy Access, with just one specialist for a visit for $12.
Easy Access might seem like the simpler of the two plans. And people who use it might not mind the middleman to use Babylon, instead of going directly to a doctor.
But the easy-access plan is expensive. It costs $1,400 a year on average in the US.
Expensive is different. It covers 6,000 items. Expensive includes specialities such as eczema, pediatrics, and specialty cancers. Expensive has unlimited plan benefits, while Easy Access has 40 plan benefits.
If you are, say, a mother with young children who need to be seen frequently for children’s injuries and vaccinations, Expensive could be worth it.
Easy Access, however, is a good deal for someone who needs frequent checkups, as it covers 4,000 common medical conditions and procedures for just $12.
The more you think about it, and the more you understand how Easy Access works, the more it seems like a way to get around paying hundreds of dollars a year for expensive expensive health insurance.
There is no mystery as to how Easy Access works. Simply purchase it online.
“Whether you are in the US or the UK,” says Kim, “Easy Access is accessible to everyone.”
Access is only available in the US, UK, Canada, and France. Babylon plans to start selling Easy Access to other countries next year.
To be sure, that’s a lot of countries where access is still considered a privilege.
The competition is fierce. As it spreads around the world, the checkups will get routine and routine checkups will become routine. Expensive medicine will continue to rise in price and rise in demand, with results that we have yet to see.