Health inequities laid bare in the pandemic have highlighted the need for access to affordable healthcare for people of all backgrounds. In the U.S., in particular, healthcare is provided by a patchwork system of public and private services that often limits the options of those with fewer resources. Vitable Health founder Joseph Kitonga wants to change that.
Headquartered in Delaware County’s Woodlyn, the Y Combinator alum makes a healthcare delivery platform that aims to connect uninsured and under-insured individuals to affordable primary and urgent care, starting at $15 per month. With the platform, members have the option of accessing in-home or virtual visits at lower costs, which the company attributes to Vitable’s reliance on nurse practitioners rather than doctors.
Earlier this year, the startup received a $1.6 million investment from SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund, a fund launched by the international investing conglomerate in October 2020 to bring access to capital and mentorship Black, Latinx and Native American founders.
The pandemic has seen hourly workers’ roles in retail and other industry be called “essential” work — but health insurance did not necessarily come with that new designation, said Kitonga, a former Penn State University computer science major who spent three summers interning with Microsoft.
“With the pandemic, you saw essential, everyday workers put their lives on the line. Many of them didn’t have health insurance or were offered it,” he told Technical.ly. At the same time, “on the employer side, the job market is competitive, and employers can’t get away [with] not offering healthcare.” As as result, Vitable offers plans to both individuals and employers with the idea that lower costs related to healthcare can ultimately lead to better health outcomes for all people.
By not having health insurance as hourly employees, Kitonga has observed that individuals of lower socioeconomic status relied upon emergency room visits as a consistent health option because they could not afford regular doctor visits. With that medical debt hanging over their heads, attaining upward mobility is more difficult, he said.
With Vitable currently serving approximately 10,000 clients in the Philadelphia and Delaware markets, Kitonga aims to double down on its current offerings in those markets over the next year before expanding to other markets in the Northeast region. Kitonga plans for the Vitable team of 15 full-time employees to triple in the next 12 to 18 months and is actively hiring; see its open roles.
“We have the opportunity to build a generational company,” he said. “Over last year we have seen incredible traction. Hourly employees don’t have many options. We fill in a gap for coverage that has existed too long.”
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.-30-