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Category: Matthew Holt

Matthew Holt is the founder and publisher of The Health Care Blog and still writes regularly for the site and hosts the #THCBGang and #HealthInTwoPoint00 video shows/podcasts. He was co-founder of the Health 2.0 Conference and now also does advisory work mostly for health tech startups at his consulting firm SMACK.health.

Simple Bills are Not So Simple

By MATTHEW HOLT

I went for an annual physical with my doctor at One Medical in December. OK it wasn’t actually annual as the last time I went was 2 & 1/2 years ago, but it was covered under the ACA, and my doc Andrew Diamond was bugging me because I’m old & fat. So in I went.

I had a general exam and great chat for about 45 minutes. Then I had blood work & labs (cholesterol, A1C, etc) and a TDAP vaccination as it had been more than 10 years since I’d had one.

Today, about one month later, I got an email asking me to pay One Medical. So being a difficult human, I thought I would go through the process and see how much a consumer can be expected to understand about what they should pay.

Here’s the email from One Medical saying, “you owe us money.”

Continue reading…

Matthew’s health care tidbits: #DigitalHealth valuations

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, it’s time to bring up the disconnect between the continual collapse of #DigitalHealth stock prices and the continued increase in private sector investment and valuation in the same sector.

All of nine months ago, way way back in March 2021 market leader Teladoc hit a stock price of $308. Last week it hit a low of just under $90. Meanwhile several companies have IPOed or SPACed this year and almost all of them have seen their stock fall dramatically. For example, pioneer online mental health company Talkspace is now at a market cap of under $300m. This week a different mental health company Cerebral which was only founded in January 2020 raised $300m at a private valuation of over $4 billion. Yes they could have bought out Talkspace for that amount! In October Medicare Advantage plan Devoted Health raised money at a $12 billion valuation which exceeded the market cap of rivals Clover, Bright Health and Oscar–each of which has more members.

So what’s going on? Part of this is the wash of money still going into venture funds. Interest rates are historically low, while inflation is picking up, so that money has to go somewhere. Additionally some of the companies that SPACed out were probably unable to get such a good valuation in a private round. But it can’t be that all the 50 or so public companies are lower quality than the private ones. That indicates that either the private valuations aren’t real (because there are so many protections built into the deal for investors), or that the private and public valuations are going to get closer together. There is of course one more possibility–some of the private companies may pursue M&A and buy out some of the public ones. But in any event, this current arbitrage cannot last forever.

It’s not unlikely the public stocks may pick up. But we’ve seen private and public market bubbles before and the aftermath isn’t usually pretty.

Matthew’s health care tidbits: Athenahealth & Private Equity

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, it’s time to delve into the private equity firms’ buying and selling of Athenahealth. That’s of course the practice management/EMR firm bought by private equity companies led by Elliot Capital Management–they of the Israeli spy agency dirty tricks division–for roughly $6.5bn in 2018. Many (including me) have wondered how, given it was already doing about $1bn a year in revenue then, Athenahealth could be sold for $17bn three years later. After all it’s hardly likely to have tripled its revenue in a mature market! This comment by “Debtor 23” on @histalk is very instructive:

“Elliott did quite a bit better than 3x on its investment. The original deal was funded with about $4.8B of debt and $1B of equity from the hedge fund sponsors. Add in the acquisition cost of Centricity (call it $500M of equity, $500M of debt) and the equity investors are all-in with $1.5B of equity and $5.3B of debt. They sold off some assets for a total of ~$600M in cash, so net equity in play is $900M. They turned that equity into $11.7B (assuming no interim debt pay down), which is a 13x return. 13x feels ridiculous….but….if you’d invested that same levered-up $6.8B in the Nasdaq (QQQ) on the same timeline (Elliott began buying ATHN in spring 2017)…you could sell today for $18.1B. Absurd as this whole deal sounds, it has actually underperformed the market. This story is more about tech multiple expansion/bubble broadly than it is about improving management or running the business.”

So much like Renaissance and other hedge funds that rely on leverage, essentially Elliott leveraged Athenahealth up with debt to the tune of 80% of its value. So after slashing and burning R&D, selling assets (like the HQ which they apparently got $500m for) they probably got costs down & profits way up. When it was public under CEO Jonathan Bush, Athenahealth never tried to be that profitable. It was always fixated on the next big thing (the last one was building the future state inpatient EMR with Toledo & using the BIDMC tech it bought from John Halamka). That’s one reason its PE ratio was 100+.

So if Elliott can get some sucker to pay up and manages to turn $1bn into $13bn, how do the next greater fools–H&F and Bain Capital–do it? Well they need to layer Athenahealth up with even more debt (as money is currently so cheap) and keep generating enough cash to pay the debt. Of course at that price and with this mature a market it’s going to be super hard to grow the company enough to justify another leap in sales price, but it might be doable to service or even pay down some of the debt and take it for an IPO for a couple of billion more if the market stays nutso. So if H&F and Bain Capital basically shrink their equity portion down to $1-2 billion, and get it to IPO in a year or so for say $20Bn, they will at least double or triple their money. Not quite 13 x but not terrible.

And if it all goes wrong and Athenahealth can’t service the debt? Well the beauty of leverage and debt is that it attaches to the company – not to the PE fund that put it in that position. So all the new owners will have at stake is a reasonably small amount of equity. Of course if the shit hits the fan and Athenahealth goes bankrupt the employees and customers may not be so happy, but who cares about them? (Apart from that hasbeen CEO who got kicked out!)

Matthew’s health care tidbits: Drug prices

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, I am going to talk drug pricing. Anyone who gets basically any health policy newsletter has seen some of the cash PhRMA has splashed trying to make it seem as though the American public is terrified of drug price controls. But as Michael Millenson on a recent THCB Gang pointed out, when Kaiser Health News asked the question in a rational way, those PhRMA supported numbers don’t hold. 85% of Americans want the government to intervene to reduce drug prices.

Big pharma whines about innovation and how they need high prices to justify R&D spending but health care insiders know two things. First, for ever Big Pharma has spent about twice as much on sales and marketing as it’s spent on R&D. This was true when I first started in health care thirty years ago and it’s still true today. Second, the “R” done by big pharma is resulting in fewer breakthrough drugs per $$ spent now compared to past decades. Which means that they should be increasing that share spent on R&D and need to improve the “R” process. But that’s not happening.

Finally, pharma is very good at increasing prices of branded products and extending their patent protection. Lots of dirty games go on here. Look into it and you can expect a lot of discussion about insulin pricing or discover how Humira is still raking in $16bn a year in the US, despite the fact its original patent expired in 2018. With 85% of the American public in favor, you’d think then that a Democratic Congress would leap at the change to pass a bill that might save the taxpayer $50bn a year in drug costs. But of course that’s not going to happen. There is about $30bn a year in savings in the House version of Build Back Better that passed last week, but there’s little chance of much of that being in the Senate version given Joe Manchin’s daughter’s role running a drug company, and Krysten Sinema being a recent recipient of PhRMA’s largesse. And that’s assuming any version of #BBB gets through the Senate.

Instead hope something small happens to help desperate patients, and wonder how we ended up in a political system that apparently disregards what 85% of the public wants.

THCB Gang Episode 69 – Thurs October 21 — Alex Drane Special!

I am so thrilled that as part of my East coast jaunt I got to do another special #THCBGang. This one is with the amazing Alex Drane, CEO of Archangels. Who among other things has almost singlehandedly changed the conversation about SDOH and lots more in this country. And you know that’s true because Jeff Goldsmith has said as much on #THCB Gang many times.

Listen to Alex’s career trajectory as an entrepreneur; how she discovered and publicized the “Unmentionaables“; the good and the bad of her leaving Eliza, and the incredibly important work she is doing with Archangels. All packed into 45 mins!

This is be available as a video below and a podcast on Apple and Spotify from Friday.

#Healthin2Point00, Episode 235 | Walgreens Health + VillageMD & CareCentrix, plus more deals

Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Noom launches a mental health offering, Noom Mood, Headspace partners with Waze to offer meditation while you drive, and we have one for the Press Release Hall of Fame where Dario Health announces a major partnership with a major national health plan— but doesn’t say who it is. We have some massive deals on Episode 235: Walgreens launches Walgreens Health, acquires a controlling stake of VillageMD, AND acquires a majority stake of CareCentrix; Intelerad acquires Ambra Health for $250 million; Mindbody acquires ClassPass; and Sprinter Health gets $33 million – even though their business model makes no sense. —Matthew Holt

#Healthin2Point00, Episode 234 | An M&A and shedloads more money!

Today on Health in 2 Point 00, the word is SHEDLOAD. On Episode 235, Jess and I talk about the scoop on an M&A and shedloads more money in today’s health tech funding climate. First up, Lark gets $100 million, bringing its total to $185 million. How much more money can we throw at a chronic condition management platform? Next, Scottish remote patient monitoring company Current Health gets acquired by Best Buy. TrialSpark raises $156 million, working on developing drugs via their clinical trials software, Twin Health raises $140 million to run clinical trials in silico in “digital twins,” and virtual care GI company Oshi Health gets $23 million. —Matthew Holt

#Healthin2Point00, Episode 233 | Another $2B in deals, including Devoted’s whopping valuation

Today on Health in 2 Point 00, we’re thinking about changing our name to Health in 2 Billion 00. Devoted Health confirmed its $11 billion valuation, bumping it to $12 billion after you count the additional $1.2 billion coming in. Now onto the other 2 billion in deals, BetterUp raises $300 million in a Series C, bringing their total to $569.8 million for performance coaching and resilience training. Honor is growing fast – it raises $370 million ($300M of that is debt), bringing their total to $625M. Elemy, formerly called Sprout, raises $219 million, for children’s behavioral health. Finally, MindMaze raises $125 million, bringing their total to $235 million, working on gamifying digital neurotherapeutics. —Matthew Holt

THCB Spotlights: Dan Goldsmith and Jennifer Goldsmith, Tendo

Today on THCB Spotlight, Matthew sits down with Tendo’s CEO, Dan Goldsmith, and President, Jennifer Goldsmith. Tendo is in the patient engagement space, and Jennifer tells us about the vision behind the company – to become that trusted connection between patients, clinicians, and caregivers via software that creates a seamless and consumer-driven experience throughout that care journey. They talk to us about the plethora of point solutions for patient engagement, and how the platform approach that Tendo takes is meant to support a patient’s comprehensive needs without placing the full burden on the patients themselves.

#Healthin2Point00, Episode 232 | Cue Health goes public + funding for Stellar, eVisit, & Neuroglee

Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Jess and I are at UCSF – we’ll be providing color commentary for the UCSF Health Awards, so tune in tonight for that. On Episode 232, Jess asks me about more deals including Stellar Health raising $60 million, Cue Health going public (and stealing the HLTH ticket), and eVisit raising $45 million for its telehealth solution. Finally, Neuroglee raises $10 million in an Alzheimer’s play. —Matthew Holt

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