Mastercard capitalizes on gig economy with new transferable health benefits

October 15, 2020.

struck a partnership with benefits company Stride to bring insurance plans to more gig and independent workers, in an effort to capitalize on growth in part-time employees in the U.S. who lack stable health coverage.

This deal, revealed Thursday, marks the first time that differentiated health, dental and vision insurance will be available through a payments network, and the benefits will be transferable from job to job. 

Mastercard will provide its customers with the ability to offer coverage plans to cardholders in the U.S on the Stride Portable Benefits Platform. Cardholders will have access to health insurance, low-cost dental and vision insurance and discounted telemedicine and prescriptions.

The platform features income and expense management tools, a concierge service, tax withholding estimation and guidance, and local deals and discounts. Business customers can tailor benefits programs for their cardholders and incorporate their own tools and services.

“The role of the gig and independent worker is increasingly relevant to our economy, as more and more people rely on digital tools and platforms to fulfill requests and facilitate tasks,” said Jess Turner, executive vice president of products and innovation at Mastercard. 

“Understanding evolving preferences from this segment for access to cost-effective coverage, and an overarching desire for a comprehensive set of personalized financial products and solutions, we’re excited to make Stride’s Portable Benefits Platform available to our partners via their cardholder offerings,” she said.

The gig economy has exploded in the U.S. alongside the rise of technology, smartphones and “disruptive” Silicon Valley startups. Ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft brought gig work into the mainstream, and their convenient app model became a blueprint for other industries.

Food delivery is now one of the largest sectors of the gig economy, led by Postmates, GrubHub and DoorDash. The mass of gig workers has particularly grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, as delivery demand has increased exponentially from people stuck at home. 

And with 900,000 out-of-work Americans filing for unemployment just last week, many are picking up gig jobs on smartphone apps to replace lost income and stay afloat. But even if workers string several together to create a full-time work schedule, gig jobs are designed to be part-time with less reliable benefits.

Stride was founded in San Francisco in 2014, and already works with employers such as Uber, Postmates, DoorDash and GrubHub to offer flexible insurance plans. It is an official partner of Healthcare.gov and claims to have helped more than 1.5 million workers save more than $1 billion. 

“Independent workers deserve the same access to affordable, comprehensive benefits as full-time workers,” said Noah Lang, co-founder and CEO of Stride. “For the past several years we’ve been building the world’s first ‘Portable Benefits Platform’ designed to help all independent workers secure, manage and use the benefits they and their families need to thrive.”

Mastercard cardholders will be able to use their cards on Stride’s Portable Benefits Platform starting in 2021. The first Mastercard customers to sign onto the program are fintech Mobility Capital Finance, known as MoCaFi, and Jobble, a network of two million gig workers in the delivery, warehouse, grocery and restaurant sectors.

Both MoCaFi and Jobble will offer insurance plans through the platform beginning Nov. 1, which is the start of the annual open enrollment period in the U.S. During the Nov. 1-Dec. 15 period, Americans can enroll in a health insurance plan for the following year. The new arrangement could have social justice implications, as minorities account for a large proportion of gig economy workers, said Wole Coaxum, CEO of MoCaFi.

“This partnership with Mastercard and Stride allows us to bridge the economic mobility gap for Black Americans and advance their ability to affordably save, invest and insure themselves against risk,” Coaxum said.

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