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.
Days after announcing their deal with Walmart, Transcarent’s Executive Chairman & CEO Glen Tullman and meet again (in-person!) to pick up our conversation right where it left off. For the details about the deal, see our last interview; for what the deal signifies for the disruption of the healthcare payer and the ultimate rise of the healthcare consumer, tune in now and take note.
The plot of Transcarent’s story is starting to take shape. Their conflict is with the “big middle” of healthcare where drugs are marked up, care needs pre-authorizations, and docs labeled “this is NOT a bill” are ridiculous artifacts of a payer-first healthcare experience.
“The system behind our healthcare today is working exactly as its designed: for payers. We want to re-design that,” says Glen. “It’s not, ‘how do we get through that better?’ That would be navigating. It’s ‘how do we go completely around that and re-design the experience?’”
Glen talks us through the leverage retailers like Walmart and Amazon really have to help take on non-innovative payers what role Transcarent is playing in all of this, and how startups like GoodRx, Ro, and Capsule who are successfully challenging PBMs are demonstrating that payment model innovation is possible.
And, while we wait for the next big deal to come from ‘healthcare’s best dealmaker, we’ve got some foreshadowing: a quick mention of Oscar Health that registered on my radar as interesting, along with some very specific details about how Transcarent will expand its offering next, looking at MSK, cancer care, behavioral health (particularly for teens), and bringing in more “human voices” for their members to turn to for advice.
Today on Health in 2 Point 00, we’ve apparently got 58 different SPACs looking to acquire health tech companies – so looks like Jess and I will be staying busy! On Episode 183, Jess asks me about Oscar Health filing their S1 and all the dirt people are digging up for IPO, Plume raising $14 million for their full stack clinic for transgender people, Sitka raising $14 million, and Alma raising $28 million providing practice management software for mental health providers. —Matthew Holt
Would it blow your mind if only five startup health plans interested in Medicare Advantage (MA) have collectively raised over $3.9 billion in private funding to-date? Well, readers, that is the reality. Now I know there are some skeptics out in the healthcare ecosystem, so I’m here to break down some of the investment thesis. Not going to necessarily defend, but explain some reasons why you should love and hate these investments. Let’s start with who raised these mind-boggling sums of money. The five startups are Oscar Health, Bright Health, Clover Health, Devoted Health, and Alignment Healthcare.
Oscar Health has raised $1.3 billion
Bright Health has raised $1.1 billion
Clover Health has raised $925 million
Devoted Health has raised $362 million
Alignment Healthcare has raised $240 million
I think it’s safe to say that the MA insurance market (also known as Medicare Part C) has captured the imagination of the venture capital and private equity community. The changing demographic trends of an aging baby boomer population, the increased selection of MA plans versus traditional Medicare fee-for-service (FFS), and the opportunity of technology-first MA startup plans to better reduce administrative fees (“Administrative Loss Ratio” or “ALR”) and control medical spend (“Medical Loss Ratio” or “MLR”) seems too good to pass up. If you were going to start a health plan, of all the lines of business you could be focused on, MA has highest profit margins, growing population, and better potential to impact patient spend and manage chronic diseases. It is certainly harder than writing the previous statement, but there are some real benefits versus the traditional commercial or Medicaid managed care.
Today on Health in 2 Point 00, it’s IPO day! On Episode 89, Jess asks me about the recent IPOs, Oscar Health getting into Medicare Advantage, and Fitbit accuracy in people of color. Jess asks me to weigh in on whether Livongo’s IPO was better than we expected and it’s safe to say that they are growing fast. On the flip side, the “silent” IPO that no one seems to be talking about is Health Catalyst, which is also doing quite well with a $1.6 billion valuation although they are not growing as fast as Livongo is. Next, Oscar Health decided to enter into Medicare Advantage, which is not surprising because that’s where the real money is in the insurance side. Finally, Fitbits and other wearables may not be tracking heart rates accurately in people of color, so what does this mean for the wearables industry—and their potential use for medical purposes? —Matthew Holt
Lotta $$ flowing around health tech services this week. Jessica DaMassa asks me about Alphabet/Google putting $375m into Oscar, Best Buy $800m for GreatCall, no money for med school at NYU & pain for patients in a Netflix movie. All in Health in 2 point 00 minutes!–Matthew Holt
Jessica DaMassa asks Matthew Holt all the questions she can about health & technology in 2 minutes. Today’s firing of VA Secretary Shulkin dominated the conversation, but there was time for a quick word on Oscar Health and what its recent huge funding round meant–Matthew Holt
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