Amy Chen is Crossover’s VP of Marketing—she started towards the end of 2020. She learned about business communication in the most direct way, making sales calls for her father’s business before she was old enough to drive. As a teenager, she nearly fit the classic left-brain person mold, but her love of literature and narrative took her in a different direction—she headed into marketing, and finally into Crossover. Part 1 of 2.
None of the leadership team at Crossover seems to have taken a normal professional course before landing at Crossover. I am assuming you are the same?
My family immigrated here from Taiwan when I was six and I grew up in Southern California. My parents owned their own small company, so I was part of a very business-focused family. I worked for my parents during summers and breaks and learned to do bookkeeping very early. When I was 16, I was tasked by my father to call suppliers for better pricing. I remember during one of these calls, I was driving a hard bargain with the sales guy, and at the end he asked me, “How old are you?”
Because of these experiences, when I went to college I was sure I wanted to study business, but when I got to UC Berkeley I decided because I’m a really avid reader, that an English major would be better for me. English is a very broad liberal arts major. I was doing writing and critical reading which are, I think, very important life skills, but I ended up taking some accounting classes as well at the business school. My thought was that I should probably shore up that side of my brain, too, and as a bonus, I loved the courses. I decided then that I wanted to go into accounting.
After graduating, I ended up doing internal audits in a very niche job at Disney. It’s called Participations—it was essentially specialized accounting for the additional compensation that talent would get on top of their guild rates, unlike royalties or residuals. It was an interesting combined use of my English degree with my accounting degree because I had to read and understand contract language very well, and I had to figure out the calculations for all of this extra compensation. I did that for a few years, and liked it for a while, but one day I pushed my mouse away thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.”
I then applied to business school because I wanted to switch into marketing. I felt like that was a better fit for my personality and for my career growth. I ended up going to the UCLA Anderson School of Management which proved to be a huge catalyst for how my career would eventually take off. I chose to stay in entertainment, starting at Warner Brothers in international marketing. It’s hard to get work in marketing without experience but I had a really great boss who took a chance on me by offering me the position. I absolutely loved it! It taught me a lot about human behavior, content, the power of storytelling, and why the entertainment industry is what it is today. Warner Bros. is where I learned nearly all of my marketing chops.
It seems like quite the switch into healthcare. How did that happen?
The entertainment industry was going through a big slump and as a marketing leader at Warner Brothers, I was putting together presentations addressing the state of the business. It was getting tiring having to tell my executives quarter after quarter that sales were flat or declining because of changing consumer behavior. I thought that it was the time to start looking to leave even though I didn’t actually know what industry I wanted to go into.
My parents happened to be going onto Medicare at that time. My father asked me for help, because he didn’t understand what he had to do to enroll or what the service offering was. I read the materials, and although I’m fairly well-educated, I couldn’t even understand what my father was required to do. That was a clear indicator that the US healthcare system was super out of whack. If I’m not able to help my father understand the basic health insurance policies offered under Medicare, I could only imagine how many others like him were also trying to make sense of these programs.
While this was going on, an opportunity with the Medicare pioneer CareMore popped up. I went through the interview process, even though I didn’t think I would be considered because I was an entertainment marketing person, with no experience in healthcare, insurance, or anything similar. What I did bring to the table was that I knew how to market in a simple manner, and use storytelling to market products. I told the CareMore executives that healthcare marketing needed to change. It’s too technical, even for consumers like myself, and a big part of why we have a messed up healthcare system. People are using the ER or going to urgent care because no one’s selling their coverage to them properly. These facts resonated with the CEO at the time. He was a visionary leader, and really believed in the mission of CareMore, which is what opened my eyes to the concept of value-based care and the power of a mission-driven company. Working there gave me a stronger sense of purpose as a marketing leader than I had ever experienced at Warner.
CareMore was famous for doing things like paying to cut seniors’ toenails so they avoid infections, avoiding more expensive medical events. How much of this innovative attitude did you drive?
It’s funny you mention that because I made sure that toenail clipping was part of our value proposition in a lot of marketing materials. It’s so common sense. A long toenail is actually quite a risk for infection if you scratch yourself, and for diabetics, something like that brings a higher risk for infection and even amputation. In the fee-for-service world, no one is going to separately charge or pay for toenail clipping, but with CareMore, it was part of our model and a central theme of the story we were telling prospective members.
CareMore was a pioneer, looking at the whole person and integrated, value-based care. Whole person care has become hot lingo in the last few years, but CareMore truly had been doing it for over 20 years—and they were able to do it profitably. They brought all of these services together and made it an advantage to Medicare as a payer long before we even heard about the term Medicare Advantage. CareMore went through some bumpy years early on, because they were still trying to figure out the insurance aspect of the model, but the business took off because they were one of the first movers in an area that had a very established status quo. Anthem ended up acquiring CareMore, because it was such a unique model. It’s interesting that Anthem left CareMore alone for a long time to run independently, which has a lot to do with the CEO at the time, Leeba Lessin, who’s another visionary healthcare leader. When she left, Anthem decided they wanted to inject more of Anthem into CareMore, and when that happened, a lot of the focus on the original mission got diluted, which was the signal for me to leave the organization.
Did you know about Crossover?
No, I didn’t. A very persistent recruiter convinced a very reluctant me to meet with Scott and Nate, certain that I’d feel differently afterwards, even as I was telling her San Clemente was too far away and I had done my years of long commutes. Well, when I met Scott and Nate, I was blown away.
My first meeting with them was so energizing. It reminded me of what CareMore was when I first started in 2016, and I wanted to be part of another truly mission-driven healthcare company that really wants to change the industry. I could be part of a company that’s doing everything that CareMore wanted to do, but now do that for a very different population.
Scott’s vision of disrupting healthcare is, I think, spot on. It’s going to be a quiet disruption, because it’s going to evolve over time, but we’re basically training the next generation of healthcare consumers. I told Scott that he’ll be getting a lot of young people who have written off healthcare—but it’s still such a necessary part of their daily lives, and we should be able to design the service in a way that will attract them. What I find so exciting about Crossover is that we’re basically setting the stage for a whole generation of healthcare consumers to stop accepting the status quo and instead demand more from the healthcare system.
Part 2 of our interview with Amy will discuss her role as the new marketing leader, and her conviction on the need for simplicity and real storytelling across all of Crossover’s audiences.