Confronting the Social Determinants of Health

Lawrence Cohen
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Though we still know comparatively little about the COVID-19 virus, we do know that it disproportionately impacts individuals with preexisting chronic conditions, the elderly, and ethnic minorities.

Demographic data surrounding its spread in the U.S. brings the nation’s social determinants of health into clear focus. The variant conditions of daily life in different communities (economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies, and political systems) shape access to healthcare, and ultimately determine the health of individuals comprising vast underserved swaths of our population.

In a recent letter to the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, the AMA urged Congress “to consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound and disproportionate effect on minoritized and marginalized communities,” noting that current data shows “Black people are dying at a rate nearly two times higher than their population share. Policy solutions aimed at preparing for the next pandemic must have an acute focus on protecting underserved areas and marginalized communities.”

The American Medical Association is committed to addressing the social determinants of health to fill the gaps and improve outcomes for all Americans. This commitment is also core to Health2047’s mission of finding, founding, and scaling powerful ideas and innovative companies that address such deficiencies head-on and enable systemic transformation.

Underscoring the enormous potential of the companies we’re forming, we are delighted to share that our Chicago-based spinout Zing Health recently secured significant follow-on investment — up to $150 million — from Newlight Partners, a private investment firm headquartered in New York with approximately $4 billion in capital commitments and assets under management led by David Wassong and Ravi Yadav.

Founded and launched in 2019 by Health2047 and two physician-entrepreneurs, former Illinois Department of Public Health Director and TWG Partners founder Dr. Eric Whitaker and orthopedic surgeon and founder of healthcare investment firm HartHaven Partners Dr. Ken Alleyne, Zing Health offers a Medicare Advantage plan serving Cook County, Illinois, that is built around community support and member health outcomes.

The company aims to improve patient outcomes and make substantive progress toward health equity by addressing social determinants of health and helping physicians coordinate improved care at the community level. It was these goals that inspired us to provide initial human and financial capital for the venture.

Zing Health supplies a health insurance option to people 65 and over who are typically underserved by traditional insurance models in communities, vulnerable populations where the healthcare gap is most pronounced.

A Zing field care team embeds itself at local partner hospitals to coordinate timely procedures and appropriate discharge practices. Zing Health uses technology to directly connect physicians with patients, and takes into account social context, nuances of local healthcare systems, and even a customer’s unique barriers to access in order to customize an individual health journey with the least amount of friction possible.

The plan is available to those eligible for Medicare, covers most Medicare services, and provides members with coverage for additional services like vision, hearing, and dental. In January 2021, Zing Health will expand beyond Cook County to six counties in Illinois, and to Indiana (three counties) and Michigan (three counties). In January 2022, Zing will be expanding to Ohio, Wisconsin, and Missouri. Dr. Whitaker notes that it’s a managed care plan, which means the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will pay a single monthly fee per member in exchange for a more holistic approach to nurturing patient health.

As part of its collaborative, community-based approach, Zing Health partners with — and supports — local providers and physicians through transparent and more productive relationships that empower them with information and insights. Amid the current COVID-19 pandemic environment, where seniors find themselves most at risk, Zing Health’s mission is more important than ever.

By building a focused and differentiated health insurance company aligned with the fundamental trends that are transforming the healthcare ecosystem, Zing is now on a path to benefit from the industry’s secular shift toward value-based managed care that delivers for members, patients, and physicians.

Together with the AMA, Health2047 is committed to confronting systemic obstacles to 21st century healthcare delivery with innovative, scalable solutions that will make a real difference. Newlight’s follow-on investment in Zing Health shows we’re in very good company.

For more information on Zing Health, visit www.myzinghealth.com.

— Lawrence Cohen is CEO at Health2047.

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