May 17, 2020

Oscar looks to tap into the MA market, following its $375mn investment from Alphabet

Health Insurance
Health Insurance
Catherine Sturman
3 min
Health insurance company Oscar Health has grown into a significant player. Raising $165mn this year, with investors such as Verily Life Sciences, Capita...

Health insurance company Oscar Health has grown into a significant player. Raising $165mn this year, with investors such as Verily Life Sciences, Capital G and Khosla Ventures on board, the company is set to undergo significant expansion, empowering consumers through data science and technology to deliver exceptional products and solutions, whilst looking for new opportunities.

Its recent $375mn investment from Alphabet will see Oscar Health further enable the business to expand its reach into Medicare Advantage in 2020, forming close ties with organisations such as the Cleveland Clinic, Humana and AXA. Google employee and former CEO of YouTube, Salar Kamanger, is also set to join Oscar’s board.

Entering nine states and 14 markets next year, the company is set to double its footprint, spanning Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas. Enrolling over 250,000 members in 2018 alone under the Affordable Care Act, Oscar Health has projected up to $1bn in gross premium revenue.

 “Oscar will accelerate the pursuit of its mission: to make our health care system work for consumers,” Oscar Health CEO and co-founder Mario Schlosser stated.

“We will continue to build a member experience that lowers costs and improves care, and to bring Oscar to more people -- deepening our expansion into the individual and small business markets while entering a new business segment, Medicare Advantage.”

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Obtaining a $3.2bn valuation, the company’s aim to enter the MA market will create further competition, as it goes up against payers such as UnitedHealthcare, Humana, Clover Health and Anthem. The move will also allow Oscar to cater to the growing demands of ageing populations, who want more than what standard Medicare can offer. Enrolment figures are predicted to rise to 38mn, or 50% market penetration by the end of 2025.

Technology will continue to impact the healthcare industry, where the use of data and analytics, AI and consumer focused digital tools, such as mobile apps and telehealth, will form part of an ongoing revolution.

“What’s interesting to note is Oscar is not just innovating insurance, they also have projects where they’re building clinics, electronic health records, and claims systems,” noted Jodi Hubler, a managing director with Wayzata, Minnesota-based Lemhi Ventures.

Through a detailed interview with Wired, co-founder Mario Schlosser explained that the investment from Alphabet will enable the business to provide a completely unique healthcare experience.

“We will have the right data flows, the right tools, the right metrics, to make sure we hold the doctors accountable and make sure that whatever happens to you, whether it's a small thing or a really big thing in your life, you’ll get the best possible care at the right point in time,” he says.

“Indirectly there will be plenty of opportunities for us to learn from Alphabet as to how they look at data, how they analyse their own healthcare data sets, and questions they would like to ask of how the healthcare system operates. Whether in academic settings or other settings, I think there will be ways to work with others on answering smart questions."

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Jun 14, 2021

Long haul Covid, the brain and digital therapies

4 min
Neuroplasticity expert Ashok Gupta tells us about the symptoms of long Covid, how it affects the brain, and digital therapies

It is estimated that around 10% of people who get Covid-19 develop long haul Covid, a debilitating condition that can last many months and cause breathlessness, exhaustion and pain. 

Research is underway to find out who is more likely to get it and how to treat it. Here neuroplasticity expert and owner of Harley Street Solutions in London Ashok Gupta tells us how the condition affects the brain. 

What is long Covid exactly? 

Long Covid is when patients who have experienced Covid-19 go on to have continuing symptoms for weeks and months afterwards. These symptoms can include breathlessness, exhaustion, brain fog, gastric issues, pain, and post-exertional malaise. It is estimated that around 10% of Covid-19 infections may result in developing long haul symptoms, and in the USA, this may be affecting over 3 million people.

How does it affect the brain?
Here at our clinic, we hypothesise that it is due to a malfunction in the unconscious brain, creating a conditioned response that keeps the body in a hyper-aroused state of defensiveness. At the core of this hypothesis is the idea that we are here because our nervous system and immune system have evolved to survive. We are survival machines!

When we encounter something such as Covid-19, the brain perceives it as life threatening, and rightly so. And in the era of the pandemic, with more stress, anxiety and social isolation, our immunity may be compromised, and therefore it may take longer for the immune system to fight off the virus and recover. 

If the brain makes the decision that this is potentially life threatening and we get to the stage where we’re overcoming the virus, a legacy is left in the brain; it keeps over-responding to anything that reminds us of the virus. Even if we’ve fought off the virus, the brain will react in a precautionary way to stimuli reminiscent of the virus. 

The brain may get stuck in that overprotective response, and keeps stimulating our nervous system and our immune system, just in case the virus may still be present.

What symptoms does this cause? 

These signals cause a cascade of symptoms including breathlessness, extreme fatigue, brain fog, loss of taste or smell, headaches, and many others. And these are caused by our own immunes system.

In the case of long-haul Covid, symptoms in the body get detected by a hypersensitive brain which thinks we’re still in danger. The brain then chronically stimulates the immune and nervous systems, and then we have a continuation of a chronic set of symptoms.

This isn’t unique to long-haul Covid. Many patients develop chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes known as “ME”, for example, after the flu, a stomach bug, or respiratory illness. Covid-19 may be a severe trigger of a form of chronic fatigue syndrome or ME.

How does long-haul Covid affect mental health? 
Anxiety is a very common symptom in long haulers. It can be frightening to wonder about what may be happening in your body, and what the prognosis is going to be for one’s long term health. Reaching out for support for mental health is crucial for long-haulers.

How does neuroplasticity treatment work for long-haul COVID patients?
We have been working with patients for two decades with a brain retraining programme using neuroplasticity or “limbic retraining.” 

We believe that through neural rewiring, the brain can be “persuaded” that we are no longer in danger and to come back to homeostasis. But to be very clear, we are not saying it is psychological in any way, but we believe there are novel ways of accessing the unconscious brain. 

We recently worked successfully with a 56-year-old male with long-haul Covid, who prior to contracting Covid-19 in March of 2020 was running half-marathons and cycling, but afterwards he struggled to get off the sofa for months. Within 3 months he’s now back to 100% and  running half marathons again.

At our clinic, we train the patient to be able to recognise those subtle unconscious danger signals on the periphery of consciousness. This, coupled with supportive techniques and the natural hallmarks of good health such as sleep and diet help prepare the patient to respond to perceived threats that might trigger the response. 

The natural state of our brain is to default to protection. The brain prioritises survival and passing on our genes to the next generation, over any other impulse. It cares more about that than you feeling healthy and well. Protective responses are evolutionary, and are the right thing for the brain to do – it’s survival. 

What digital therapies or apps are proving effective at treating long-haul Covid? 
It seems that long haul patients are availing themselves of many online therapies and services, including meditation apps and wellness websites. We have an online neuroplasticity “brain retraining” video course called the “Gupta Program” which hosts 15 interactive videos and many audio exercises. This is proving very popular with long haul patients, and we are currently conducting a trial to test the effectiveness of this therapy. 

What is the danger of leaving long-haul Covid untreated?
The longer it goes untreated, we hypothesise that it may become more entrenched in the brain, and  become chronic in the longer term. Therefore we advise all patients to get help and advice as soon as possible.

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