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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.

Go deeper

California fines Uber $59 million over sexual assault data

Photo: Liu Guanguan/China News Service via Getty Images

A judge ordered Uber on Monday to pay a $59 million fine to California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and threatened to suspend its state permit to operate if the firm fails to do so within 30 days.

The big picture: The judge found the ride-hailing giant had failed to share data with the regulator following Uber's safety report last year, which revealed that U.S. users reported nearly 6,000 incidents of sexual assault and harassment on trips made in 2017 and 2018.

Updated 14 hours ago - Technology

From Malcolm X to "Free Britney," new media shapes the justice system

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

True crime documentaries, podcasts and social media campaigns are bringing new attention to real-world legal proceedings — and are often affecting the outcome.

Why it matters: New media platforms can instantly put a national spotlight on cases that have long been forgotten or buried under red tape.

Updated 17 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

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