Ounce, a startup focused on bridging the gap between health and housing, has teamed up with two partners to bring care coordination and wraparound services to residents of Washington, D.C.
Together with AmeriHealth Caritas DC, one of the city’s largest Medicaid managed care organizations, and National Housing Trust, a nonprofit focused on affordable housing, Ounce is bringing services to more than 2,000 residents across nine affordable housing properties. The organizations plan to expand to other markets.
More than 300,000 D.C. residents are on Medicaid, and an estimated 27,000 low-income D.C. households face housing hardship. As of mid-June, 3,000 residents have been disenrolled (PDF) from Medicaid. While Medicaid MCOs work to improve outcomes, they may struggle to engage beneficiaries due to out-of-date contact information, a lack of trust in the healthcare system, limited transportation and other factors, the partners say.
Ounce contracts with payers and housing partners, embedding its team of trained community health workers within affordable housing properties, where they directly connect and engage with residents, building trusted relationships over time. The model is especially critical to Medicaid beneficiaries by providing personalized support, education and guidance to help navigate a complex system and address the social drivers of health, Ounce executives said.
“There is an enormous gap between health plans and where their members spend over 70% of their time—their homes,” Rachel Munsie, co-founder and CEO of Ounce, said in a press release. “Our integration with the properties and our proximity to residents gives us the opportunity to quickly intervene with support when we see red flags like eviction notices or other indicators for housing instability, which has clear links to healthcare outcomes.”
Munsie’s personal mission statement is “to create new things that make society more fair,” she told Fierce Healthcare. “You can’t actually have true access to health and social services if you can’t engage with someone.”
Ounce’s team evaluates residents for gaps in care, hosts on-site health clinics and screenings, enrolls residents in public benefits like Medicaid, SNAP and disability, and connects residents to healthcare and social services, including scheduling primary care and pediatric appointments or helping residents apply for rental assistance.
The approach, the startup argues, benefits residents, Medicaid MCOs and property owners, who choose to work with Ounce because of its scalability and ability to demonstrate positive health and social outcomes.
Ounce also announced it raised $5.2 million in seed funding in a round co-led by Meridian Street Capital and Flare Capital. Also participating were Chelsea Clinton’s Metrodora Ventures, Wilshire Lane Capital, Chris Nassetta (Hilton CEO), Taylor Justice (Unite Us co-founder) and others.
The partners initially launched in southeast D.C. before expanding to the rest of the city. The region, which is predominantly Black, has higher rates of poverty and gun violence due to chronic underinvestment and is both a food and a healthcare desert, according to the partners. Ounce was able to engage and enroll more than 30% of residents into its program within a few months of launching.
“Through their community-based presence, Ounce is significantly extending our reach, closing gaps in care, and driving improvements in health equity,” said Karen Dale, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer and president and CEO of AmeriHealth Caritas DC, in the announcement.
“We are also appreciative of the work Ounce is doing to educate residents about Medicaid redeterminations and support them in navigating the process.”
Ounce works with D.C.-based providers like C3 Cares and Urgent Wellness along with numerous community-based organizations.