Two health care firms owned by private equity firms are merging in a transaction supposedly valued at $3 billion. HealthComp administers self-funded plans for employers and other groups and Virgin Pulse provides wellness and care management services.
CVS has finalized its $10.6 billion buyout of Oak Street health, which operates primary care centers for Medicare members. People may think CVS is a drug store company, but it bought Aetna a few years ago and Aetna provides the majority of revenue. CVS also owns a very large pharmacy benefit management division. Insurers increasingly own providers, partly to help manage costs, but mostly to skirt profit limits on insurance products. More unneeded and ill-advised consolidation in health care.
Another example of over-priced companies trying to find some way to survive in the post-epidemic financial world. Transcarent, which does something, somehow to "access high quality, affordable care" is buying the virtual care part of cutesy-named 98point6, one of ten million virtual care companies, none of whom have any competitive differentiator. Just ask TeleDoc. Supposedly the deal is for around $100 million. Very, very hard to believe, but desperate times take desperate measures. Oh, and did I mention there is some AI involved somehow?
In an attempt to swiftly revive two floundering health care companies, a PE firm has announced the merger and recapitalization of Revive Health and SwiftMD. You know they are floundering by the description of their businesses. SwiftMD is a "virtual" health company that is also "digital". These buzz words might have once summoned fear but now only loathing. Revive Health offers "integrated" care plans, whatever that is. More floundering to come for these fishy firms.
Another merger of two struggling "digital" health companies, which use virtual reality as a product design. Apparently you are less likely to drown in high seas when you are holding on to another person than when you are alone, even though neither of you has a life jacket. BehaVR (aren't these health care company names cute) which focuses on milder mental health issues, and OxfordVR, which focuses on more serious mental health illness, are merging. Investors, who appear to have their own cognition issues, also pumped over $13 million in new financing into the combined company.
UnitedHealth Group, my former employer, is a health care behemoth. It has pushed aggressively in to the actual delivery of medical care in the last decade and is currently the largest employer of physicians in the country. It now is moving into home health care by purchasing LHC Group for $5 billion. Supposedly these deals will reduce total costs, but I don't believe it, I think they protect profits and profit margins and I doubt they result in better quality either.
In what has to be one of the strangest deals yet, large dialysis provider Fresenius is merging with two over-hyped and over-valued "digital health" companies oriented to kidney care--Interwell, which has a network of specialists and Cricket Health which supposedly does patient engagement. This apparently will make the conglomeration more attractive to payers and patients. This mess is valued at $2.3 billion.
VillageMD is one of a series of focused primary care clinics which have gone public or gotten large investments at huge valuations. All these companies are struggling to maintain those valuations. Some do so by questionable acquistions. VillageMD is buying Healthy Interactions, which offers patient education services, at an undisclosed by undoubtedly excessive price, supposedly to provide the services to its members.
I have mentioned before the phenomenon in excessive capital times that scads of money goes to unproven companies, who then try to obscure their lack of coherent strategy by acquiring with other similar companies. Health care is rife with this tactic. Here we see Signify Health acquiring Caravan Health for $300 million, much of which is funny money stock. Both firms work in the commodity space of value-based purchasing and accountable care organization support. One plus one still equals zero.
More froth in the capital markets as R1 RCM pays $4.1 billion for CloudMed. R1 RCM helps health care providers with billing and other practice management software and services and CloudMed supposedly brings artificial intelligence to those activities.
The day's second incomprehensible deal involves Babylon Health babbling on about buying Higi Health, which offers kiosks for biometric screenings. Babylon is a digital and telehealth company. No price announced but whatever it was, it was too much.
This is why I don't invest in "digital" health BS. Castlight Health went public at a huge valuation. The hype caught up with it and the valuation plunged. It now has agreed to be bought by Vera Whole Health for $2 a share or a whopping $370 million. I doubt it is worth that much, but Vera is another hype-driven company, although in theoretically a more solid segment--primary care, desperate to find some way to make it look like it actually is adding value to the system. I always find it hilarious to see the rational for these deals. Castlight's tools will supposedly help Vera's providers. Right, sure, of course, anything you say, load of crap.
Large database firm Oracle is buying electronic medical records and administrative software vendor Cerner for $28.3 billion, a move that likely is aimed at further penetration in a heavy software use industry and at competitor Salesforce.
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].