Thursday news roundup: Cigna deploys over $12B for investment, Cerner’s Feinberg to Humana board, Teladoc on Amazon Alexa, admitting Livongo problems, and XRHealth VR therapy scores $10M

Cigna’s opportunity piggybank just added $12 billion+. It’s a combination of selling off non-core businesses, share repurchasing authorization, and redeploying funds to areas such as capital investment and Cigna Ventures. This includes:

  • $5.4 billion after-tax from the sale of its international life, accident, and supplemental benefits businesses in seven countries
  • $450 million invested in Cigna Ventures, its innovation investment arm
  • An expected $7 billion for share repurchase this year from a $10 billion authorization. To date this year, Cigna has already repurchased $1.2 billion of shares.

The Cigna Ventures funding will go towards three announced areas: insights and analytics; digital health and experience; and care delivery and enablement. Originally formed in 2018 with $250 million, they now have seven VC partners and 15 direct investments, including Arcadia, Babyscripts, Cricket Health, Ginger, Omada, and RecoveryOne. 

Buried in the release is this: “…the company is not currently contemplating large-scale mergers or acquisitions” which would seem to put a tight lid on the long-rumored acquisition of parts or all of Centene [TTA 28 Jan]. (Too much wake turbulence?) But following on this, “The company intends to continue making strategic investments in innovation through targeted bolt-on or tuck-in acquisitions” which fits sell-offs, as well as investment in early-stage companies through Cigna Ventures. Also FierceHealthcare

Insurer Humana’s board expands to 14 with the addition of David Feinberg, MD, the current CEO of Cerner and future executive of Oracle, provided the merger is approved. He joins the current seven independent directors on the Humana board. Last week, Starboard Value LP, an activist investor hedge fund, reached an agreement with Humana to appoint two Starboard-backed board members starting next month and retire two incumbents. Humana limped through last year with a $14 million Q4 loss and Medicare Advantage losses to both traditional rivals and insurtechs. With over 25 years in healthcare management including CEO positions at Geisinger Health System and three divisions of UCLA Health, it’s a smart move. Release, FierceHealthcare

“Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor”–and that doc will be through Teladoc. Amazon customers with supported Echo devices, such as an Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show, will now be able to access Teladoc and a virtual care session 24/7. Initially it will be voice-only with audio/video to come. The release states that visits may be free through insurance or $75 direct pay. It did give a much-needed lift to Teladoc shares, which have been hammered by 76% in the past year, on the announcement and in the past few days, feeding the usual rumor mill that Amazon may be writing a check for Teladoc shares.

Teladoc has finally admitted via its annual report (SEC 10-K) that the Livongo acquisition has not been all beer and skittles. It impacted its indebtedness (page 35) and on page 52, significant insecurities on the integration of the two companies, well over a year after the acquisition.

Our failure to meet the challenges involved in successfully integrating the operations of the two companies or to otherwise realize any of the anticipated benefits of the merger, including additional cost savings and synergies, could impair our operations. In addition, the overall integration of Livongo post-merger will continue to be a time-consuming and expensive process that, without proper planning and effective and timely implementation, could significantly disrupt our business.

Healthcare IT News and HISTalk

VR physical therapy has remained a “we try harder” area of telehealth for several years, with a lot of initial promise in treating returning veterans with PTSD in de-escalating symptoms but having a hard time getting takeup. XRHealth, an early-stage company offering VR-driven physical, occupational, and speech therapies, gained a $10 million venture round backed by HTC, Bridges Israel impact investment fund, AARP, and crowdfunding on StartEngine.com and existing investors. According to Crunchbase, this is par for their course since 2016; their total of $35 million has been in pre-seed, seed, grant, crowd, and venture funding. Based in Brookline, Massachusetts with R&D in Israel, it is good to see them progress, having ‘been there and done that’ with two early-stage health tech firms.

However, their release does them a great disservice. It is, frankly, 90% nonsense in trying to position them out of the gate as “the gateway to the healthcare metaverse” and “growing the open ecosystem and providing greater access to care while reducing costs. Interoperability is key…”. This Editor had to go to their website to find out what they do. As a marketer and reporter, the First Rule of Press Releases is say what the news is, what the company does, and why it’s important in the first two paragraphs. The rest is reinforcement and expansion, with the spokesperson quote part of that and never in paragraph #2. Additional advice: don’t pick up a word now branded by Facebook (Meta). Hat tip to HISTalk