Obama-Era CMS Head's New VC Firm Targets Vulnerable Populations

Jack Murtha
MAY 08, 2018
andy slavitt,town hall ventures,andy slavitt vc,town hall vc
Image has been cropped and resized. Courtesy of Town Hall Ventures.

When Andy Slavitt, MBA, talks healthcare, he tends to dive into deep-seated socioeconomic issues. At Mayo Clinic’s Transform conference last year, for example, the former CMS administrator criticized what he considered a fixation on high-tech capabilities over services to help marginalized communities. But he’s doing a whole lot more than talking through a new venture capital firm called Town Hall Ventures, which focuses on boosting vulnerable populations.

Announced at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, Town Hall Ventures aims to leverage its “broad and deep expertise in building companies” to address social determinants of health and bolster care surrounding Medicare, Medicaid, risk-based care, and complex conditions, according to the firm. Trevor Price, founder of the executive search firm Oxeon Holdings, and David Whelan, managing general partner of Oxeon Ventures, will help Slavitt lead the organization. Both men have experience in the inner workings of healthcare.

“As a nation, we have significant healthcare infrastructure serving healthy populations while lower-income communities go underserved, leading to vastly poorer health outcomes,” Slavitt said in the announcement. “We are at the beginning of a wave of innovation serving Medicare and Medicaid populations. Town Hall is being formed to help lead this massive and necessary shift.”

>> READ: What Will Andy Slavitt’s All-Star Health Organization Do?

The healthcare leader went on to say that Town Hall Ventures may focus on “investments in underlying systemic issues” and innovations geared toward improving individual health and well-being.

Its early investments underscore that point.

Cityblock Health, formed alongside Alphabet’s Sidewalk labs, providers primary care and similarly overlooked services in urban neighborhoods. The real-world data and analytics company Aetion aims for better understanding of drugs among pharma and payers, in a push to promote value-based care. Welbe Health delivers “integrated” medical care and social services to “frail seniors” who qualify for a certain Medicare program. And, finally, Somatus works to identify treatments and new care models for patients with chronic kidney conditions.

The minds running those start-ups are slated to receive guidance from Town Hall’s network of mentors, experts, and community leaders, according to the organization.

“We believe we will see more entrepreneurs whose missions are to serve the tens of millions of people whose lives can be improved by innovations that allow them to receive the absolute best quality of care,” Price said, “whether being treated at home and/or in other comfortable and low-cost settings.”

Slavitt has had a busy year thus far. In February, he unveiled another new project, an organization called United States of Care, an apolitical stab at influencing national healthcare policy. Government and healthcare leaders with varying political opinions signed on to that effort.

Today’s announcement did not note how much money Town Hall Ventures has amassed in its coffers, but it certainly is tackling a potentially lucrative problem. Its target areas affect roughly 120 million Americans—and account for $1.2 trillion in healthcare spending each year, according to the firm.

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