Robert I. Field, professor of law and director of the JD-Master of Public Health Program at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, was quoted in a Feb. 26 The Daily Beast article about Eli David, Ph.D., a COVID-19 skeptic who regularly tweets criticism about the settled science—but also co-founded a company contracted by the health insurance giant Aetna.
David, an Israeli artificial intelligence developer with a doctorate in computer science, is also co-founder of Marpai Health, a health care company that uses machine learning to manage plans for insurers like Aetna.
But he brags about being among the top 100 influencers on Twitter, according to ranking site Notus.
“David is wildly popular with COVID conspiracy theorists, who are drawn to his daily tweets mocking scientific experts, spreading doubt about the safety of the COVID vaccine, and ridiculing those taking precautionary measures, like wearing masks,” the article says.
“But David is not only a Twitter celebrity among anti-vaxxers. He is also the co-founder of Marpai Health, a health-care company that manages self-funded employer health plans for Aetna, a major health insurer owned by CVS.”
Weighing in, Field says, “Vaccine skepticism kills people. So having the founder of a health-care company associated with a movement that kills people raises some serious questions.”
Even if David is not involved in the day-to-day operations of Marpai Health, Field says, the connection between his public persona and a mainstream health-care company still raises concerns.
“This ties into the larger anti-vax movement, which has caused a fair number of people to avoid vaccines, and some of them have died of COVID as a result, and some of them have spread COVID as a result,” Field says. “Is this another foot in the door of legitimate health care of the anti-vax movement?”
Marpai’s major client is Aetna, a health insurance company bought by CVS Health in 2018. The $69 billion deal was the biggest health care merger in U.S. history. CVS played a major part in the rollout of the COVID vaccine when it entered an agreement with the federal government to distribute the shot through its pharmacies.