Photo: Courtesy of Ro.

Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, is joining the board of directors of health care startup Ro.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on telemedicine companies like Ro as Americans look to balance social distancing measures and health care needs.

  • Ro, which started in 2017 by selling hair loss supplements and erectile dysfunction medication to men, has since expanded to other online medical services, including an online pharmacy for $5 generic medications.
  • Ro says its pharmacy service has seen monthly growth of 80% in recent months.

“The first thing he wanted to know was how are we taking cost out of the system,” Ro CEO Zachariah Reitano tells Axios of his conversations with West after an investor put them in touch.

  • West was also interested in whether the company is helping decrease geographical and racial inequities in health care access, adds Reitano.
  • In a separate interview with Axios about his interest in Ro, West highlighted his work defending the Affordable Care Act in court as associate attorney general under President Obama.

Yes, but: Uber, where West is chief legal officer, is battling California over reclassifying drivers as employees, which would give them access to benefits like employer-sponsored health care insurance.

  • “This is actually something we wanted to change really from day one that I started at the company, and [Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi] when he started at the company was calling for portable benefits,” West told Axios when asked about drivers not currently being able to access employer benefits.
  • Last month, Khosrowshahi argued in a New York Times op-ed that instead of classifying drivers as employees, Uber and other gig companies should fund portable benefit accounts for workers, an approach the companies have been pushing as part of a California ballot measure.
  • Meanwhile, West's sister-in-law, Democratic VP nominee Kamala Harris, has publicly supported the California legislation that is at the center of Uber's ongoing battle.

In July, Ro raised an additional $200 million in funding, led by General Catalyst, that gave it a valuation of $1.5 billion. The company says it now brings in $250 million annual revenue.

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