Mastercard has teamed with portable-benefits platform Stride to make it easier for gig workers to buy healthcare coverage. Jess Turner, Mastercard’s executive vice president for North America Products and Innovation, tells PYMNTS the venture is just one part of the firm’s push to help gig workers get benefits.
With gig-economy participation rising and U.S. healthcare costs soaring, anything that can reduce the burden of medical expenses on the often-overlooked freelancers who are driving the digital economy would be a big win. That’s why Mastercard and Stride, which operates a portable-benefits platform for gig workers, are joining forces to make it easier for independent contractors to shop for, select, enroll in and pay for healthcare coverage.
“We want to make sure that everybody has an ability to participate in the modern economy and that everybody has an ability to leverage the technology that's available, the services that are available and have a better life,” Jess Turner, executive vice president for North America Products and Innovation, told PYMNTS in an interview Thursday (Oct. 15) following the partnership’s announcement.
The tie-up will give U.S. Mastercard cardholders access to simple, affordable coverage plans. It’s the first time that differentiated health, dental and vision benefits will be made available via a payments network.
The Stride platform includes a benefits marketplace where customers can access insurance, discounted telemedicine and prescriptions, income and expense-management tools and more. And beginning in 2021, some Mastercard cardholders will be able to use their cards to pay for their benefits on Stride’s Portable Benefits Platform.
Mastercard will initially make the Stride platform available through two partners, Jobble and Mobility Capital Finance (or “MoCaFi”). Jobble is gig-working platform Jobble, which serves 2 million workers in the delivery, restaurants and other industries, while MoCaFi is an African American-owned FinTech with a popular financial app.
African Americans make up 17 percent of gig workers, and MoCaFi aims to serves unbanked Americans who often exist in the economic margins. Turner said teaming up with the firm is “a great way for a person that is already interacting with MoCaFi, already trusts MoCaFi and is able to do other things with MoCaFi to also have access to this portable benefits platform. It just makes sense.”
Mastercard said the new arrangement is a natural extension of its financial inclusion program and what the company called a “the first step” in a broader strategy to provide gig workers with a wide range of benefit choices.
"We're really excited about this because the idea of being able to have portable benefits — and do as you wish with your professional life — is really impactful," Turner said.
She said the tie-up will help workers in industries “where benefits almost never exist” for contract employees. And while this marks the first time that a payments network helps offer gig workers insurance, Turner said it won’t be the last.
“We hope to continue to sign on more partners because it's such an easy way for gig workers to access this portable benefits platform,” she said. Turner added that the pandemic is only increasing the demand for insurance, and for procuring it digitally.
"The difference with COVID is [that] the acceleration of the need may be more apparent, and also the digitization of the way to access [it] is more accelerated,” she said. “People who potentially weren't that digital before have had to become digital and are more comfortable. [To] leverage a digital platform to do something like offer benefits that are portable will probably have a better pickup and better customer experience and understanding"
Stride launched the world’s first “portable benefits platform” in 2014 — a product that has since helped more than 1.5 million gig workers save more than $1 billion on benefits. Expanding the program to include Mastercard marks a major new development for the platform.
In a statement announcing the Mastercard tie-up, Noah Lang, co-founder and CEO of Stride, said that “independent workers deserve the same access to affordable, comprehensive benefits as full-time workers. We’re putting that powerful platform in the hands of Mastercard’s partners so they can provide their users with access to those benefits.”