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Exclusive: Ounce gets $5M seed for affordable housing-based care coordination

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Affordable housing-based health care startup Ounce collected $5.2 million in seed funding, CEO Rachel Munsie tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Washington, D.C.-based Ounce is using housing as a toehold into the care ecosystem, eyeing the tens of millions of people losing Medicaid coverage as the public health emergency ends.

Details: Meridian Street Capital and Flare Capital co-led the round.

  • Chelsea Clinton's Metrodora Ventures, Wilshire Lane Capital, Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta, and Unite Us co-founder Taylor Justice participated.
  • Funds will go toward internal growth and planning for expansions throughout D.C. and other cities and states.
  • Munsie declined to say when Ounce plans to raise a Series A.

How it works: The startup embeds its team of community health workers inside affordable rental properties, utilizing extra leasing office spaces, community rooms, and lobby offices.

  • Those workers have access to tools and tech enabling them to develop one-on-one relationships with residents, host on-site health screenings and pop-up clinics, enroll residents in public benefits like SNAP, Medicaid, and disability, schedule primary care and pediatric appointments, and help residents apply for rental and utility assistance.
  • Ounce currently serves roughly 2,000 affordable housing residents across nine properties in D.C., per Munsie.

Zoom in: In an effort to foster trust, Ounce includes as criteria in its hiring process whether candidates have lived in the neighborhoods they seek to serve.

  • "When you're working with a lack of trust in the traditional health care system to begin with, overcoming that takes some level of community knowledge and frankly, just familiarity you can't train for," Munsie says.
  • Be smart: Medicaid serves nearly one in five U.S. residents and represents $671 billion in yearly spending, per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Plus, Medicaid enrollees have adopted virtual care tools at rates similar to those on commercial insurance, a recent Rock Health report found.

State of play: A small but growing cohort of health care startups is building for the Medicaid market, including:

What they're saying: Compared with care providers like Galileo or Cityblock, Munsie says Ounce sees itself more as a community-based coordinator than a "full stack clinical care" startup.

⚖️ One fun thing: Ounce's name alludes to the saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

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