In truth, this seems like more money down a rathole. Google's parent and other investors are putting a billion dollars into Google's health arm, Verily. Apparently want to compete with Amazon or something.
It is like investors have learned nothing from the past two years. Even supposedly smart investors like Morgan Health, which is making a $20 million contribution to LetsGetChecked, which supposedly helps manage patient care in the home. It is a contribution, not an investment, because Morgan Health is highly unlikely to see any return.
What do you get when you combine a company with a commodity business model, that out of desperation massively overpays for another company that has a commodity business model? $10 billion in writeoffs if you are Teladoc. Teladoc arranges virtual patient visits. Livongo did some goofy care and disease management model. Neither company had any prospects of significant profitability because anyone can do what they claim to do. Teladoc's purchase of Livongo was beyond stupid and investors are paying the price. There are a lot of dumb people in business and finance.
The "stupid" model for health care venture capital investing is alive and well. Everside health, which operates primary care clinics and has grown by acquiring other failing health care businesses, some persuades investors to dump another $164 million into the company.
Apparently not even a cute name can save you if you have a stupid business. I constantly bemoan the mis-application of capital and health care is Exhibit A. Olive, another company whose function you would struggle to explain, raised a crapload of money and now has to lay off 450 employees due to lack of a real value to customers. Why did you ever hire that many staff?
Amazon has been a very successful retail company, but not very profitable. It has continued to push to expand to new markets, including health care. It announced yesterday that it is buying a company with a number of primary care clinics, One Medical, for around $4 billion. I think Amazon also hopes to use its relationship as a retail channel with thousands of small companies to help them provide health benefits to employees and apparently sees ownership of a primary care company as part of that strategy. We will see, historically outsiders who come into health care do terribly.
Three large employers thought they would change health care by creating a company called Haven. It went nowhere, after a lot of money down the tubes. One was JP Morgan, which then created a division called Morgan Health. Morgan Health has been investing in firms it thinks can control health care costs. The latest is $30 million for Centivo, which helps employers run self-funded plans. I hate to break it to JP Morgan but their health investments look as much like bad ideas as Haven was.
Over the last two decades the pharmacy benefit manager industry got very large, very consolidated and engaged in abusive and deceptive pricing practices. Ultimate payers generally don't trust the current mix of PBMs so we are seeing a new wave of entrants promising a different, more transparent business model. Capital Rx is building new claims and other software to support PBMs and has added a fresh $106 million in financing.
The Healthy Skeptic is a website about the health care system, and is written by Kevin Roche, who has many years of experience working in the health industry. Mr. Roche is available to assist health care companies through consulting arrangements through Roche Consulting, LLC and may be reached at [email protected].