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BREAKING: Thirty Madison and Nurx Merge, CEO Steve Gutentag Takes Us Inside

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Thirty Madison and Nurx are merging and here’s what Steve Gutentag, CEO of Thirty Madison and the soon-to-be-combined entity, is saying about the deal!

This is a merger of two well-funded, direct-to-consumer, virtual-care-plus-pharmacy startups that deliver specialty and expert care and prescription drugs to a combined 750,000 active patients, with or without insurance. To-date, Nurx has raised a total $110 million, and Thirty Madison closed a Series C in June 2021 that brought their total funding to $210 million with a then-valuation of over $1 billion.

Thirty Madison currently deals with migraines, allergies, GI issues, and men’s hair loss, while Nurx (once referred to as “the Uber of birth control”) brings a predominantly women’s health-focused portfolio of chronic condition care focusing on sexual health, contraception, STIs, and dermatology.

So, what makes sense about this combination? And, what’s the big-picture plan for differentiation against rivals like Hims&Hers or Ro’s Rory or Roman brands – OR, the myriad virtual-first primary care clinics that have popped up in-person and online and offer more traditional routes to care for these same such conditions?

Steve talks extensively about the chronic care focus of both businesses, how each is providing access to specialists and experts patients wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, and how both companies’ tech platforms are built to scale along with the addition of new conditions. Still…why bring together care for this assortment of conditions instead of, say, either Thirty Madison or Nurx looking to find a merger partner who could expand their platform into high-demand chronic care areas like diabetes management, heart health, or mental health care? Is that what’s next, after the paperwork on this merger is signed? Tune in for more on Steve’s plans for the future of the NEW Thirty Madison and how “longitudinal care models” factor into its strategy to win over more patients AND their employers and payers.

Rcube Health’s ‘Resony App’ Catches Bayer Support for Mental Health DTx for Resonance Breathing

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Digital mental health startups are leaning into the fact that mental health care is not “one-size-fits all” and, as a result, we’re seeing new offerings hit the market that seek to combine typical therapies and their human-plus-machine delivery in novel ways in order to better meet different patient needs. In this interview, we hear about Resony, a digital therapeutic that’s tackling anxiety and stress through a completely autonomous, AI-driven program that brings together resonance breathing and physical relaxation exercises with cognitive behavioral therapy. In other words… working on the physical side of that mind-body connection for the overall benefit of mental well-being.

Resony is just the first DTx coming out of Rcube Health, one of four early-stage startups that have gained the backing of Bayer G4A as part of their Digital Health Partnerships Program Growth Track. CEO and co-founder Ravi Janapureddy introduces us to the business that he’s building on the thesis that true scalability for digital therapeutics in mental health care relies on full automation – no clinical intervention. In a crowded space, how will Resony stand-out as a stand-alone business, instead of a ‘feature’ for a larger, full-service virtual-first mental health care provider? Is this where Bayer might see the opportunity for an “around the pill” or “alongside the pill” approach? Another digital mental health use case to explore!

Rumor Check with Vida Health’s CEO: Buyer Sentiment on Virtual Care, At-Risk Models, Mental Health

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF Health

To hear Vida Health’s CEO Stephanie Tilenius talk about what she’s hearing from payers, providers, and employers about at-risk value-based models, the shift to virtual care, and the growing importance of mental health services as a culture-builder for businesses forced into a part-virtual-part-in-office world, you get a sense of how her past work leading the various payments and commerce businesses of Google, eBay, and PayPal probably comes in handy. For example, the shift to virtual care, she says, is, “like the Internet in 1999…It’s happening.”

We get an update on exactly how Vida Health is making it happen themselves, and how they expect their newly expanded at-risk model will help. Vida’s always been fees-at-risk on physical outcomes related to diabetes management, hypertension, etc. BUT the mental health side of their offering (which experienced 6000% growth year-over-year during the pandemic) is now at-risk on outcomes too. With so much happening across the industry to move to value-based models, we deep-dive with Stephanie to hear what she’s hearing from her clients, including client-and-investor Centene and hear about growth in the employer market where she sees a major shift in how employers are thinking about healthcare as the new sexy job perk. “Instead of snacks or transportation or other benefits,” says Stephanie. “It’s all about healthcare.”

Mental Health Parity and the Affordable Care Act

The Obama administration announced on Friday that it will require parity for mental health insurance coverage. That means that health insurers must apply the same copayments, deductibles, and visit limits to mental healthcare as they do for physical health care treatment. Call it fair, call it political, but please don’t call it a good economic or health policy.

The story about how this is fair, or at least politically popular goes something like this: Health insurers are evil and powerful firms that can and will do whatever they want. On the other hand, patients with mental health problems are politically weak and must be protected from the powerful insurers that have no interest in taking care of them.

In this story, the Obama administration rides in on its white stallion and rights the wrongs being perpetrated by the villainous insurance companies. All we need is a damsel in distress, an evil step-mother, and a catchy tune and Disney will sign the movie rights.

The problem with this simplistic story line is that you can replace “mental health” with nearly any other condition and the story would sound just as plausible.

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Free the Vets

Don’t you think our military veterans deserve decent health care? I certainly do. That’s why I like Mitt Romney’s idea of setting the veterans free. Give them the opportunity to choose private health care alternatives to the Veterans Health Administration (V.H.A.), a system that too often fails them.

Why can’t we do for veterans what we do for seniors? About one in every four Medicare beneficiaries is not actually in Medicare. They have enrolled instead in private health insurance plans operated by such entities as Aetna, United Health Care, Cigna, etc. Why can’t we give people who risked their lives for the rest of us similar options?

You would think this idea is a no-brainer. But, just like the Grinch at Christmas time, you can always count on Paul Krugman of The New York Times to argue that being trapped is good, free to choose is bad, and government medicine is all anyone should ever have or need.

According to Krugman, “the V.H.A. [is] providing better care than most Americans receive” and it does so at a lower cost. He doesn’t stop there. Here is Krugman’s view of health care, worldwide:

The most efficient health care systems are integrated systems like the V.H.A.; next best are single-payer systems like Medicare; the more privatized the system, the worse it performs.

In other words, in the best of worlds we all would be getting veteran’s care, courtesy of the U.S. government!

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