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Crain's Grand Rapids Business Brief

Crain's Grand Rapids Business

- Michigan venture capital investment trends

- ASR Health Benefits self-funded plans

- Multi-state healthcare licensing

Mark Sanchez: This is an issue that's been going on for a few quarters now. This is a story we posted the other day. It's data that comes to us each quarter from the National Venture Capital Association and the folks at PitchBook that really tracks this data. Bottom line in Michigan, in the third quarter, there were 34 deals in Michigan totaling $77.8 million. That compares to 48 a year ago in the third quarter, $283.7 million. And this really tracks with the national data that shows interest rates are up, valuations are down, and there's a little bit of a pullback going on and it's kind of a soft market right now for venture capital. And that's expected to continue for a little bit longer. There is some pent-up demand that's brewing. There's a lot of capital out there waiting to be deployed, but some folks are maybe sitting on the sidelines a little bit right now and waiting to see what happens here in the near term with interest rates and the economy. You know, one of the deals we did track in the story that, it's kind of an interesting company, it's over here in Grand Haven. It's called UV Partners. Also, they're known as UV Angel. And it makes these systems that you install in office buildings, public areas, restaurants, especially healthcare settings. It basically uses artificial intelligence, sensors that monitor the air quality, and ultraviolet light to kill the mold, bacteria, the viruses in the air. It basically installs with the light fixture, brings the air in one side, passes it under the light, the UV light cleans the air, puts it out the other side. And it's a company that's growing and it's going through a $25 million capital run right now. And during the third quarter, looking at this data we got from PitchBook and the NVCA, they received an $11 million venture capital investment from an outfit out of Washington, DC. And they're also making inroads into installing these at military bases. So that's one example of a company that uses and raises venture capital to support its growth, to really go forward with an innovation. But bottom line, as you said, Patrick, it's a little soft market for venture capital these days. Although we did recently see one really nice success here in Grand Rapids with Grand Ventures. Closed on a new $50 million round to raise a new venture capital fund. So, there is activity. It's just a little down in some areas right now.

Patrick Center: Always activity in healthcare. ASR Health Benefits, it's boosting a pitch to employers for self-funded plans.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah. Keep an eye on this outfit. It is that time of year again. All the HR directors, the benefit managers at companies are going through this process of open enrollment for health benefits that renew on January 1 of 2024. And most companies do use the calendar year as their plan year. And ASR Health Benefits is an outfit here in Grand Rapids. It administers, it's a third-party administrator for self-funded benefits, typically something the larger employers do. Health Alliance plan out of Detroit many years ago bought two-thirds stake in the company. And a few years back bought a full share. Now fully owns the company has gone through some processes of integrating and doing other things and now it's really ready to roll out and kind of sell this type of coverage, the self-funded coverage in a larger way alongside its other products. ASR has a new CEO, Chris Moyer, who joined the company a couple weeks ago. He's got a lot of experience in this field. He came to HAP from an insurer out in Pennsylvania. He ran the self-funded business unit for Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Pittsburgh. So, it's got new leadership. It's got kind of a new focus where they're going to be rolling this out and promoting these self-funded benefit options a lot more. And of course, this is a market really for health benefits that, you know, you got two large players in Blue Cross and Priority Health. So, HAP came into the market a few years ago, first with some Medicare products and now a couple of years later with some commercial plans. And it's really trying to build that book of business here in West Michigan and become another good, valuable option that employers will consider, including self-funded benefits, when they're looking to renew and shop around their health benefits for their employees.

Patrick Center: We're talking with Crain's Grand Rapids Business Senior Writer, Mark Sanchez. We'll stick with health care. Lawmakers are weighing compacts for multi-state health care licensing. Kind of get us into the nuance of this.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, the compacts are basically just collaboration, partnerships, coalitions. And you hear this a lot when people travel, you know, we have a lot of snow birders in Michigan. And during the pandemic telehealth, telemedicine has just risen to new heights and it grew exponentially for the first year. Pulled back a little bit, but now it has become a common element. It has become a mainstay in accessing healthcare. And you've heard stories about people, they're traveling or they go to Florida for the winter. How do they see their doctor? Well, their doctor's not licensed in Florida. Their doctor's licensed in Michigan. So, they can't see their own doctor through that telehealth visit if they're away, whether they're living part-time elsewhere or they're traveling. How do you solve that? There's been a movement across the country to form these medical licensing multi-state compacts where if you are licensed in one state, another state that's part of this compact will recognize your licensing and you can serve a patient in that state. It's generally for telehealth. It also has great applications for rural health where there's just a shortage of providers and difficulty gaining access sometimes. So, there's a number of bills in the legislature. One's for physical therapists and another’s for occupational therapists. The one for PTs (physical therapists) a couple of weeks ago passed a state house committee and it's now in the full house. The other bills are under consideration in the legislature and there are a couple more bills, one for nurses and another one for physician assistants. And again, basically if your state is part of one of these multi-state licensing compacts, if you're licensed in this state or another state, you can cross state lines and practice and serve patients in another state that's part of these compacts. So, it's kind of a new wrinkle in healthcare that's been coming along. and it's something the legislature is considering here in Michigan is getting the state involved in these licensing compacts with other states.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.