The U.S. marketplace for health care services is dysfunctional, opaque, and ruled by insurers. But one startup, Zenefits, seems to have found an interesting way to both simplify the process and — potentially — make a lot of money.

Zenefits, as described in a detailed profile this weekend in the New York Times, provides simplified benefits administration to startups and small businesses. The vision is attractive to its customers: Sign up for Zenefits, and you get a single, simple dashboard that lets you automatically adjust benefits for all your employees, across a variety of providers.

But for Zenefits, the key to the business is in brokering health insurance deals for its customers. As the Times writes, this is a business that is truly ripe for disruption:

When businesses buy health coverage for their workers, they often go through brokers, who play the role that travel agents once did for the airlines. They are middlemen who figure out the best fit between buyers and sellers of health care, then take a percentage of the sale. And the commissions can be quite hefty. After connecting a small business with a health care provider, a broker collects a monthly fee of about 4 to 8 percent of a company’s health premiums.

Most of those brokers offer very few benefits to their customers apart from helping them find a good rate. And their rates were secret until earlier this year, when the Affordable Care Act began requiring brokers to disclose their rates.

But by becoming a broker itself, Zenefits can offer health insurance deals — and its software for managing all of a company’s benefits.

“I was thinking, wait a minute, that is a ton of money, and these guys don’t do very much for it,” Zenefits founder Parker Conrad told the Times.

The approach seems to be working, so far. After less than a year of operation in California, Zenefits is now the #1 submitter of new policies to Anthem Blue Cross. It has raised $83.6 million so far, most recently in a June 2014 round of $66.5 million led by Andreessen Horowitz, and has grown from 15 employees to 220 since late last year.

Investors, no doubt, are enticed by the prospect of those 4 to 8 percent monthly commissions — and the fact that the health insurance brokerage market is estimated to be worth $18 billion overall.

Health care in this country, as I wrote last year, is like a flea market where the products and prices vary wildly — but you can’t tell what something costs, or how good it really is, until long after you’ve bought it. After getting a procedure or a health care service done, health care consumers get bills that are often crazily inflated compared to the cost of providing those services.

Zenefits shows how providing transparency — even a little bit — can enable new business models that can provide more services, and more value.

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