Tuesday, 21 August, 2018

Amazon.com, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to form joint healthcare venture

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan to Partner on Health Care Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan to form healthcare company for employees
Elsie Buchanan | 01 February, 2018, 00:43

Amazon grew from a book retailer into one of the world's most valuable companies in part because it's extremely skilled in distributing products.

The new company, a venture with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, will initially focus technology to provide the trio's employees and their family members with "simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost".

The health-care industry has been nervously eyeing the prospect of competition from Amazon for months.

But Amazon, with the most employees (540,000 and growing) and arguably the best track record for technological innovation (they've already disrupted multiple industries), is probably the most important piece of the puzzle.

Some suggested it would be an iteration of self-insurance, which wouldn't be a surprise, since 70 percent of New Jersey's insurance coverage is self-funded.

But others in tech have tried to jump into healthcare only to get bogged down with regulatory hurdles. "Clearly, these three players have resources and capital that exceeds other startups by magnitudes, but implementing change in health care is hard and we believe that more detail is necessary before any true evaluation of the risk to legacy providers and payors can be conducted".

The formal announcement yesterday that Amazon is joining forces with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase to collaborate on a healthcare company did not quell years of speculation about the digital retail giant's medical ambitions. This could be very transformative in how companies work on this problem together.

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John Fanburg, attorney with Brach Eichler in Roseland, also said the announcement was not surprising. On average, 8.3 percent of total compensation costs for civilian workers went to health care in 2017, up from 7.3 percent in 2004, according to USA government data.

Gregg Slager, group leader of Ernst & Young's global health transaction advisory services division, said the three companies' desire to control health costs makes sense, given the fact that those costs are increasing, along with the patients' direct responsibility for health bills. "We actually have fewer of these, but each one costs a lot", he said.

"I think that those who are selling their shares in health-care stocks are reading this all wrong", said Jim Klein, American Benefits Council president.

"The best results that we've seen have come from jumbo employer efforts - from them either teaming together or doing pilot projects on their own to prove that something is a good idea and then everybody else gets in line and adopts similar approaches", said Tracy Watts, senior partner at benefit consulting firm Mercer. The federal Affordable Care Act requires all companies with 50 or more full-time employees to offer it.

Teaming up with JPMorgan, the biggest USA bank, and Berkshire, the third-largest public company globally and an insurance provider, offers new opportunities to shake up the industry, analysts said.

"He has over (40) Fortune 500 companies that created a purchasing alliance as a way to specifically change how health care benefits are purchased by large employers", Schwimmer said. The companies said the initiative, which is in its early stages, would be "free from profit-making incentives and constraints", but did not specify whether that meant they would create a nonprofit organization.

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