Ant Financial’s online healthcare platform Xiang Hu Bao has reached 50 million users since its launch in October. The fintech giant said it aims to provide basic healthcare plans to 300 million people within the next two years with the platform, which is growing at a pace faster than Alipay’s money market fund Yu’e Bao, according to the company.
Xiang Hu Bao (literally, “mutual protection”) is an online mutual aid platform in the Alipay app that provides a basic health plan that covers 100 illnesses. Participants in the plan can receive health care coverage, as long as they agree to pitch in and help out with other participants’ medical expenses—bearing the risks and expenses together as a collective. Anyone with a sesame credit score of 600 or higher that meets the health conditions can join the plan.
Xiang Hu Bao is not a health insurance product, the company said, but it complements other health insurance offerings in the market. For 2019, the amount each participant will have to contribute is capped at RMB 188 (around $28) per month.
Such mutual aid platforms are gaining traction in China, where access to private health insurance is lacking. Other tech giants have expressed interest in the emerging healthcare business. Just yesterday, Chinese retailer Suning announced that it is testing (in Chinese) a similar mutual aid plan called “Ning Hu Bao.”
However, such mutual aid services swim in somewhat murky regulatory waters. When Ant Financial and Chinese insurance company Trust Mutual Life jointly launched Xiang Hu Bao, they promoted the healthcare service as insurance policies. A month after launching the service, Ant Financial rebranded the product to a “mutual aid plan” after regulators warned it about misleading product promotions. Unlike conventional insurance companies, the company that underwrites such mutual aid products barely bear any risks.
In November, Alibaba rival JD.com also tested a similar online mutual aid insurance plan “JD Hubao” but took it down (in Chinese) after just one day due to regulatory scrutiny.
Ant Financial is currently experimenting with blockchain technology to assist with authentication and notarization of evidence for supporting claims.
Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that anyone with a sesame credit score of 600 or higher can join the mutual aid plan and not a credit score higher than 650 as previously reported.