Imagine your child falls sick. Worried, you take her to the hospital. But her care costs more than you make in a month. You can’t afford to pay the bill, especially since school fees were due last week for your two older children. You’re stuck in an impossible situation.
This is the reality for many low-income families. But it doesn’t have to be.
In 2015, we partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tanzanian startup Edgepoint Digital to create an affordable health insurance product that families can pay for using mobile money. The product had the potential to be the first truly accessible health-care plan for low-income Tanzanians, but had run into some challenges. While Edgepoint was seeing over 6,000 sign-ups, only a few customers actually completed the process. Together, we set about a human-centered design journey to understand what families really need when it comes to accessible health insurance, and how to provide a product that meets their needs.
We interviewed customers and potential customers, observed sales agent interactions and mapped the hospital experience for low-income patients to identify opportunities to improve Edgepoint’s product. We then prototyped a series of improvements, eventually resulting in a complete transformation of the health insurance product—from how it was advertised and explained to the structure of the health plans to the sales strategy, and even the name, Jamii.
Our design focused on three key shifts:
We discovered early on that most low-income customers had limited exposure to the concept of insurance, especially as it relates to health care, having spent most of their lives excluded from formal financial systems. Usually, insurance marketing materials are full of dense charts, tables, and hospital jargon, but we needed something more straightforward that people could trust. So we designed new marketing materials that highlighted human stories. By leading with real stories of insurance users, potential customers could envision themselves benefitting from Jamii. Instead of stock photos, we chose images of familiar people and environments, and used clear and straightforward language. With this new look and feel, we created an insurance brand that is friendly, approachable, and aspirational, not just practical.
Traditionally, health insurance is sold individually, on a per-head basis. This was true for Edgepoint’s original product, which covered only individuals, with no cost benefit for adding direct dependents. But many Tanzanians think and act communally, not individually. When it comes to healthcare, we heard most people prioritize care for their loved ones over their own, so to get everyone covered, we needed a new paradigm—family plans that are flexible and inclusive. We also changed the product name from BimaAFYA, which literally means “health insurance”, to Jamii, which means “community” in Swahili.
Driving demand for insurance and aligning it with people’s health goals only took us so far. In order for Jamii to become a truly transformative offer, using it had to feel easy and seamless. So, we simplified both the product options and purchase process. We integrated with M‑Pesa to reduce the number of menus customers engaged with, and presented only the best coverage options to minimize decision fatigue. We also introduced 3‑month and 6‑month packages to demonstrate value to customers at a price range that felt accessible. Instead of presenting people with complicated tables to choose coverage, we rounded prices to the nearest hundred and made the recommended option clear throughout the process.