Humana Forms Partnership With Heal, to Invest $100M in Home-Based Primary Care

July 29, 2020

Through the partnership, Humana and Heal will expand the startup’s current markets to include Chicago, Charlotte, Houston and others that are part of Bold Goal, a multi-year effort to improve overall health of communities by addressing both medical needs and working with partners to address social determinants of health, such as food insecurity.

Humana Inc. is investing $100 million in home-based primary care, the company said today, as it announced a partnership with Heal, a fast-growing company focused on delivering primary care through a mobile app, similar to Uber.

Through the partnership, Humana and Heal will expand the start-up’s current markets to include Chicago, Illinois; Charlotte, North Carolina; Houston, Texas, and others that are part of Humana’s Bold Goal, a multiyear effort to improve overall health of communities by addressing medical needs and working with partners to address social determinants of health, such as food insecurity.

The announcement comes as Heal and others report increased consumer interest in home-based primary care visits, even before the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. But Heal has seen explosive growth during the crisis, as more patients are unable or unwilling to venture out to the doctor’s office. And Humana reports that more of its members have asked about this option.

“The partnership with Heal is part of Humana’s efforts to build a broader set of offerings across the spectrum of home-based care, with high-quality, value-based primary care being a key foundational element,” Susan Diamond, Humana’s segment president for Home Business, said in a statement.

Diamond, who is joining Heal’s board of directors as part of the collaboration, added, “We continue to see high levels of customer satisfaction and improved health outcomes when care is delivered in the home. Our goal is to make the health care experience easier, more personalized, and caring for the people we serve—and is the hallmark of how Humana delivers human care.”

In an email, Diamond noted that Humana's interest in home-based primary care, and in working with Heal, predates COVID-19. "Home-based primary care is a foundational element to our broader home strategy, given the significant role the primary care physician plays in coordinating care for our members across the broader healthcare system."

The pandemic, she added, has increased interest in home-based care, not only for urgent care but also for routine preventive care. "We have also seen greater interest and adoption of virtual care delivery, which we hope is sustained well beyond the pandemic. We have seen increased interest in home based care solutions for healthier patients who particularly enjoy the convenience and on demand nature of the care delivery model, but even more so for our more complex, chronic members who really value the additional time Heal doctors spend with them as well as the reduced burden on their caregivers."

In its statement, Humana said working with Heal will allow those who are healthy and moving into Medicare eligibility—as well as those living with multiple chronic conditions—to receive primary care in the comfort of their own homes. Heal provides services to those eligible for Medicare coverage, as wel as those with group commercial or individual coverage. As of August 2019, Humana had 12.4 million Medicare Advantage members, giving it an outsized footprint in this sector.

The partnership comes as CMS is making it easier for Medicare Advantage entities to pursue home-based care; emergency rules to pay for telehealth are expected to become permanent, and Medicare is also moving to making home-based dialysis financially viable.

According to its statement, the COVID-19 pandemic has “reinforced Humana’s belief in the need for quality of home-based care delivery models.”

Heal was founded in 2014 in Los Angeles, California, by a married couple, nephrologist Renee Dua, MD, and Nick Desai, who are now chief medical officer and CEO, respectively. In 5 years, Heal has reinvented the 21st century house call, delivering more than 200,000 home visits. Heal brings telemedicine, digital monitoring, and other services to patients in New York, New Jersey, Washington, California, Maryland, and Washington, DC; telepsychology is also available in California. As of April 2020, the company has raised more than $71 million in venture capital and had relationships with all major insurers.

“Humana's investment and strategic partnership are an irreplaceable catalyst to make doctor house call—based primary care an affordable and effective reality for all Americans,” Desai said. “We're honored to work with the entire Humana team so that one day soon, all of us can open our doors to better care.”