Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced they are joining forces to address the high costs of employee health care.
The three companies, which bring their scale and complementary expertise to this long-term effort, will pursue this objective through an independent company that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints. The initial focus of the new company will be on technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.
According to the press release, tackling the enormous challenges of healthcare and harnessing its full benefits are among the greatest issues facing society today. By bringing together three of the world’s leading organizations into this new and innovative construct, the group hopes to draw on its combined capabilities and resources to take a fresh approach to these critical matters.
According to Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO:
The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty. Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.
Read the vision in the press release found in The Business Wire
What does all of this mean and how can it be successful when so many other initiatives have fallen short? Kaiser Health News asked a variety of health policy experts their thoughts on this venture, and what advice they would offer these CEOs as they go forward. Some of the advice has been edited for clarity and length.
Tom Miller, resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute:
It’s great that someone theoretically with resources would try to build a better mousetrap. But it’s been difficult to do, and part of it is regulatory and competitive barriers are well-constructed in the health care sphere, which tend to make it less receptive or subject to competitive pressures.
Suzanne Delbanco, executive director, Catalyst for Payment Reform:
The biggest driver of health care costs is prices. Those are being driven up by health care providers who have consolidated and will continue to consolidate and amass more market power.
For a wide ranging look at how experts view the challenge, read Kaiser Health News
NPR’s Scott Hensley says there is precedent for the case of a non-health care company wading into the health care business — “in fact, it has happened repeatedly.”
One of the most prominent examples is what is now Kaiser Permanente, a big provider of health care in this country. It started with the Kaiser shipyards and providing, first, workers comp kind of care and, later, more integrated health care for employees. So it is possible.
Read the view from National Public Radio