Pooja Ika: Changing Health Insurance Industry, Pioneers a New Medicare Advantage Health Plan in the United States

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Pooja Ika
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BOSTON–Pooja Ika is the founder and CEO of eternalHealth. At the age of 24, she is the youngest woman to launch a new Medicare Advantage Health Plan in the United States.

A 2019 Babson College graduate, Ms. Ika founded eternalHealth to deliver high quality, affordable care to her fellow Massachusetts residents. Committed to doing things the right way, eternalHealth was built on trust, transparency, and integrity. Ms. Ika has been working tirelessly to make healthcare accessible for all, while also acting as an advocate and educator for her members.

Driven to make eternalHealth a catalyst for change in the health insurance industry, Pooja is not scared to tackle what some might call impossible. Ms. Ika states, “Nothing is impossible, with the right team and the right thought process, anything is possible. I wake up every morning, grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love and be an advocate for our members.”

Ms. Ika has brought together a diverse and passionate team that are committed to making a difference. Her commitment to diversity and inclusion can be seen at all levels of the organization starting with the workforce and going all the way up to the Board of Directors and Investors. In addition to fostering a diverse work environment, 50% of the entire organization (workforce, executives, board of directors, and investors) are woman.

Although Ms. Ika officially launched eternalHealth in later half of 2020, she has been surrounded by the healthcare industry for as long as she can remember. Born and raised in Massachusetts, her mother is a primary care physician in Worcester, MA and her father is a healthcare entrepreneur. She credits her father for instilling in her a passion for entrepreneurship, and her mother for her love for healthcare and her commitment to always placing the member at the center of every decision eternalHealth makes. This passion and commitment to make a positive difference has shaped her into who she is today: a resilient, fearless, and innovative leader.

Ms. Ika serves on the board of althea.ai, an organization committed to leveraging technology and data science to improve financial and clinical outcomes, while reducing behavioral and systemic inefficiencies. Outside of healthcare, she is committed to helping provide opportunities to children in diverse urban communities and is able to do so through her work with Junior Achievement, where she serves as a board member.

Here is a Q-A with Ms. Ika:

INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it? 

Pooja Ika: Growing up, I was always envious of my parents and the fact that work was never work for them, because they truly enjoyed what they do. As corny as it may sound, I wanted to feel the same way about my work as well, and I am lucky to say that I do. I love people, and so for me by doing what I love, I am able to help my community and fellow residents.

INE: If you’re engaged with any charity or non-profit, please tell us why this organization and what do you do for them?  

PI: I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve on the board of the Massachusetts Chapter of Junior Achievement. Junior Achievement is a non-profit organization that helps empower children through the power of networking and entrepreneurship, opening new doors for them and providing them an alternative path.

Growing up as one of the only Indian kids in my town, I know how it feels to not completely fit in. Even outside of our town, whenever I turned the TV on or went on the internet, I never saw young girls who looked like me, allowing me to think I could do those things as well. And that is where Junior Achievement comes in, helping bridge the gap, and letting all children know that regardless of race or ethnicity, anything is possible if you set your heart out on it.

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?  

PI: When I am not working, I love to spend time with those I love including my family, friends, and my little toy poodle, Brooks! Brooks and I love to walk around the city, meet new friends, and try new restaurants.

INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field? 

PI: At eternalHealth, our goal is to not only better the health insurance ecosystem for our members, but instead for all of our fellow Massachusetts Residents! That is why it is so important for us to serve as a catalyst for change in the healthcare space, pushing other insurers to take a look at what they are offering and how they can be better as well, so that the Medicare Beneficiary is protected and getting the best possible benefits.

INE: What is your rare talent?  

PI: My rare talent is that I never take no for an answer. I am a firm believer that nothing is impossible, and so because of that I always look for ways to turn a no into a yes.

INE: Your favorite books?  

PI: My favorite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because it has helped me understand the importance of living a life without fear.

INE: Your favorite quotes?  

PI: “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.” -Audrey Hepburn.

“Use your smile to change the world, don’t let the world change your smile.” -Connor Franta

INE: Who inspires you the most?  

PI: I credit a lot of my passion for this space to both of my parents. I grew up watching my mother interact with her patients and I saw the close relationships she was able to build with them. She was not only their provider, but she was also their friend and someone they really trusted. My mom would and still does share stories about me to her patients and on the flip side, they would share stories about their own children and would always make it a point to ask about me and all the progress I have made since they last spoke. My mother’s patients trusted her enough to never go to the ER or do anything without calling her first, and by building that unique relationship with her patients, my mother came home with an incredible sense of gratitude and thankfulness.

Meanwhile, I watched my father dreams come to fruition, as he built companies from scratch. I watched him go through the typical ups and downs that you face in a start-up environment, and I saw him take on any and every task with a smile on his face. By always being optimistic, he was able to bring together a group of people who were equally passionate and shared the same mission and vision. My mother made me fall in love with healthcare, while my father helped me develop my business acumen and made me fall in love with the start-up environment.

INE: Your core value you try to live by?  

PI: Transparency. It was really important to me to foster a work environment and culture that promoted openness, honesty, and mutual respect for another.

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