Clover appoints Trump official, industry vet to board amid market struggles, Medicare push

·4 min read

Clover Health (CLOV) on Thursday announced the appointment of health insurance veteran and Trump administration appointee Demetrios Kouzoukas to its board of directors, following a rocky start to the company's journey to the public markets.

Kouzoukas was recently a top Medicare official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) during President Donald Trump's administration. He has also served in several roles with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) during President George W. Bush's administration, and a general counsel at United Health Group (UNH).

Kouzoukas "understands the opportunity and challenge of operating at scale. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of Medicare rules and regulations, combined with an incredibly astute business and strategy acumen," Clover CEO Vivek Garipalli said in a statement.

"We are grateful that Demetrios is joining us on this very important journey," Garipalli added.

The move comes at a precarious time for Clover, which sells Medicare insurance, and could use some good news to shore up investor confidence.

In February, a high-profile short attack pressured the stock soon after it went public through Chamath Palihapitiya's special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The stock, which has languished in a narrow range between $6 and $8 per share, has yet to bounce back to its initial share price of $10.

CMS recently announced Clover was among more than 50 companies that would participate in a direct contracting model. That news boosted shares this month and partly validated its efforts to be a futuristic Medicare Advantage company.

Industry insiders see the addition of Kouzoukas as game-changing for Clover.

"Demetrios joining the board is a game-changer for the company," said Chris Meekins, a former HHS official and health analyst at Raymond James.

"He has forgotten more about Medicare than most people in this town know. He adds instant credibility to anything he is associated with," Meekins added.

Former United Health Group colleague Jack Larsen said Kouzoukas is a strategic thinker and "a real get."

'A lot of opportunity here'

In an exclusive interview, Kouzoukas endorsed Clover Health's vision, arguing that the company is well-poised to grow and lead in a modernizing health sector.

"What's really exciting about Clover is that they are very focused on the empowering the physician at the moment in time when the patient is in the room...with the benefit of all the technology and information that the Clover system can provide," Kouzoukas told Yahoo Finance.

The reliance on technology built around the insurance product has been a key advertising point for Clover. Its focus has been on creating a closed loop strategy to ensure the patient and physician are more engaged, and have more accountability for care.

"I think there's a lot of opportunity here, and Clover's really not only at the forefront of it, but ultimately going to continue to raise the bar for what it means to treat each person individually," Kouzoukas said.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has health care policy changes in its sight, which may let Kouzoukas bring his experience to bear as Clover navigates the changing policy landscape.

"I also think that there is a lot of excitement around new approaches. And so ensuring that the company is prepared for all the ways that the health care policy world can play out over the next few years is something that I'm looking to be a part of and excited about," he said.

At the end of the day, Kouzoukas knows the company still has some more growth to achieve. Large insurers and other startups in the space have already achieved greater market share than Clover. The company has roughly 66,000 members in 8 states, according to a spokesperson.

"We're far from achieving perfection in health care, but we are moving in the right direction," Kouzoukas told Yahoo Finance. He added: "I think Clover is at the forefront of it and I think Clover has the opportunity to create ever higher bars."

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