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New Investment: Tailored Healthcare for Underserved Seniors

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Acumen America has invested in Zing Health, a health insurance plan ensuring underserved Senior Citizens have access to better care.

THE CHALLENGE: Disparities in Access to Quality Healthcare for Seniors

Americans enrolled in Medicare are covered by one of two health insurance plans: original Medicare, whereby the government is billed directly for medical costs, or Medicare Advantage (MA), coverage provided through approved private health insurance companies. MA insurers receive government funding to provide coverage for each member, enabling them to invest in care programs and provider networks that deliver strong outcomes for their patients. Unlike original Medicare plans, many MA plans cover dental, vision, hearing, preventative care and costs related to social determinants of health such as transportation or food security, which affect 80 percent of patients’ health outcomes. This model is working: a recent study showed that MA members had 23 percent fewer inpatient stays and 33 percent fewer emergency room visits than original Medicare members.

However, low-income, Black and Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries are disproportionately under-enrolled in MA plans. While Medicare beneficiaries can choose among available options, existing MA plans do not yet meet the needs of these underserved Seniors: in-network providers are often too far from where they live and work and plans don’t cover services addressing members’ complex health issues nor disengagement with the mainstream healthcare system. To support the health and wellbeing of Seniors living in low-income communities, the U.S. needs more health plans designed to serve them.

THE INNOVATION: A Healthcare Plan Designed for Underserved Seniors

Zing Health’s Medicare Advantage plan covers services and providers tailored to the needs of low-income, Black and Hispanic Seniors. Zing’s provider network includes local community clinics and doctors that members already know and trust—and also goes beyond the doctor’s office to provide additional support within the community. Zing has care coordinators and community health workers (CHWs) that are embedded in the community and help patients navigate to resources that address social needs. In extending care beyond clinics and into members’ communities, Zing is pioneering a community-based coverage model that transforms social service organizations, churches, community groups and even patients’ homes into points of care.

Zing’s plan is also affordable for members, who pay no premium and can expect to spend only a small, capped amount out of pocket. Zing launched its plan in 2019 in Chicago’s Cook County, Illinois—a diverse community home to 700,000 residents over the age of 65.

WHY ACUMEN INVESTED: Pioneering a New Model of Medicare Coverage

Within its health portfolio, Acumen America invests in companies that improve outcomes, enhance patient experience, and lower costs for low-income Americans. Zing Health is designed to meet each of these three objectives for patients. 

“Zing Health is not only radically including low-income, Black and Hispanic Medicare members in the benefits of Medicare Advantage from which they have historically been excluded. The company is also pioneering a model that transforms the community into many nodes of care and allows them to meet members where they are,” says Acumen America Senior Associate Stella Tran.

“Zing Health abides by principles which guide how the company aims to impact diverse, low-income Seniors. Many potential investors could not understand how there would be value in targeting these ‘niche populations.’ Luckily there are investors like Acumen America whose values align with those of the company our team is building,” says Zing Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Eric Whitaker.

Watch Dr. Eric Whitaker’s conversation with Catherine Casey Nanda of Acumen America and Miriam Rivera of Ulu Ventures on his work, personal story, and vision for change in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, enduring racial injustice and building a more just and inclusive America. This conversation is the first in the Acumen America and Acumen Academy Leadership Series on tackling poverty and racism in America.

For more on Acumen’s guiding investment philosophy, see our eight Investment Principles.