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The coronavirus has increased demand for remote care. Photo: Teladoc Health

Teladoc's $18.5 billion acquisition of Livongo creates the health care industry's largest company devoted to multiple forms of digital care.

The big picture: The coronavirus has accelerated the shift toward virtual doctors' visits.

How it works: Teladoc and Livongo make money by selling subscriptions to their remote technology to employers and health insurers.

  • Teladoc focuses on regular doctor visits and non-emergent care. Livongo's main technology is for diabetes management, among other chronic conditions.
  • The two companies are on track to register $1.3 billion of revenue this year, a more than 80% increase from last year due almost entirely to the surge in demand stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Between the lines: The appeal of telehealth comes down to convenience (people waste less time traveling, waiting and taking off work) and the potential to save money (remote visits are cheaper than having to go to the emergency room).

Yes, but: Virtual visits cannot replace all in-person visits. And there aren't any cost savings if telehealth simply acts as a precursor to an in-person visit, which has concerned some federal health analysts.

  • And while these options seem like free benefits with a job or health plan, the costs are ultimately borne by workers through health insurance premiums.

Worth noting: Even though Teladoc has only been a public company since 2015, it has had several financial irregularities.

Go deeper: Telemedicine doesn't waste a crisis

Go deeper

Oct 15, 2020 - Health

UnitedHealth's profit declines as more people see doctors

A health care worker prepares to care for a coronavirus patient in a hospital ICU. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

UnitedHealth Group's profit in the third quarter dipped 10% as people sought health care at rates "more closely approaching normal," executives said on an earnings call today.

Yes, but: UnitedHealth's quarterly earnings still hit $3.2 billion, and even though the health insurance division is paying more in medical claims, more people also are going to doctors' practices, urgent care facilities and surgery centers owned by UnitedHealth.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A price tag of $500 billion to $555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.