Health Care Checkup: Centene building in Ferguson, EndoStim eyes IPO

The Health Care Checkup, a weekly rundown of the state’s top health care headlines, is sponsored by Heyen Wellness Therapies.

With protestors and law enforcement in full force on the streets of Ferguson, some are merchants have taken security of their businesses into their own hands. | Courtesy of Loavesofbread/Wikimedia Commons
Following unrest in Ferguson (above), Centene plans to build a claims center in the suburban St. Louis community. | Courtesy of Loavesofbread/Wikimedia Commons

Taking the Pulse

Centene building claims center in Ferguson

Picking up the pieces in Ferguson is just beginning, but at least one Missouri business appears determined to be part of it. Centene announced it will build a claims processing center in the city recently ravaged by rioting, a decision that could bring as many as 200 new jobs with it. According to Centene CEO and Chairman Michael Neidorff, the choice of location is aimed specifically at helping Ferguson rebuild. “Centene views this as a way to help the community and we have the confidence in the residents of Ferguson,” Neidorff said in a statement. “This is the right thing to do for the community, state and our shareholders. It is time for action, not talk.”

Centene says claims centers such as this usually take about 18 months to complete, but the company has fast-tracked the Ferguson location. There is no official word yet on what the expedited completion date would be.

Missouri insurance navigators double on the back of grants

When the health insurance enrollment period begins Nov. 15, Missourians will have four agencies to help them with shopping, twice as many as last year. The Community Action Agency of St. Louis County and the Missouri Alliance of Area Agencies on Aging received grants totaling more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to open what are known as insurance navigators. Navigators are agencies backed by funds through the Affordable Care Act to help people sift through their state exchange to learn whether they qualify for tax credits or low-cost Medicaid coverage. In addition to the two in-state agencies, two out-of-state operators, National Healthy Start Association and Advanced Patient Advocacy, received another $500,000 between them to run navigators for Missouri for 2014-15 enrollment.

EndoStim readies $40 million IPO

EndoStim, a St. Louis maker of medical devices, filed a proposed initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission valued at as much as $40.25 million. Money raised with the IPO is expected to go toward commercialization as well as clinical trials needed for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. In all, the company has raised more than $42 million, including $6.4 million in July. The company is about to take a device to market for treating acid reflux disease with electrical stimulation. When the company goes public, CEO Bevil Hogg and Sante Health Ventures in Austin, Texas will be the largest shareholders with 35.4 percent each. EndoStim will trade on the NASDAQ Capital Market under “STIM.”

Shots in the Arm

• St. Louis startup Immunophotonics, a company working on a cancer vaccine that would treat through immunotherapy, received $1.8 million in Series A financing from area investors including Cultivation Capital, BioGenerator, St. Louis Arch Angels, Billiken Angels and the Missouri Technology Corporation. The company says the money will be put toward holding clinical trials in Latin America.

• Another St. Louis-based company, Sparo Labs, raised $1.25 million through angel investors for its work on a pocket device to measure lung function in asthma patients. Co-founder Abigail Cohen said the money would go toward hiring more employees.

Number of the Week: $11.3 million

The amount Missouri owes the federal government in taxes tied to the Affordable Care Act this year. Because Missouri chose federal oversight of its health care exchange instead of operating one itself, the state owes money for a new tax levied on insurers.

Quote of the Week

“That’s an ongoing continuous improvement process that we’re engaged in.” — Swope Community Enterprises President Art Chaudry on whether Swope’s recent financial struggles, including a $2.4 million loss in 2012, are part of the reason the company is selling KC Home Care and getting out of the home health care business altogether. Swope bought KC Home Care just two years ago, but the company will now focus on health care for underserved communities and community development — without one of its vice presidents.

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