aside Healthcare Insurance Business Is Being Reinvented By 3 Major Companies

FROM LEFT, WARREN E. BUFFET OF BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY, JEFF BEZOS OF AMAZON, JAMIE DIMON OF JAP CHASE /AP

In any other news cycle without the republican President Donald  J. Trump sucking up all the oxygen , this story would have received much more coverage and fanfare. Three major companies are turning the healthcare industry on its head. This is US industry at its best.

I am thrilled at this news. In the USA, we pay more than other developed country on healthcare costs but we don’t have the outcomes to show for it. A little good old fashion marketplace competition just might be the ticket to help fix this.

Image result for photos of Todd Combs

Here is the rest of the story…

On January 20. 2018, Zachary Tracer and Hugh Son of the Los Angeles Times penned the following report, “Amazon, JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway are starting a healthcare company, aiming to lower costs” 

Excerpts:

“It’s no secret Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos has been looking to crack healthcare. But no one expected him to pull in Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon, too.”

“News Tuesday (1/16/18) that Amazon, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., led by Dimon, plan to join forces to change how healthcare is provided to their combined 1 million U.S. employees sent shock waves through the healthcare industry.”

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AMAZON

“The plan, though in early stages and focused solely on the three giants’ staff for now, seems almost certain to set its sights on disrupting the broader industry. It’s the first big move by Amazon in the sector after months of speculation that the internet behemoth might make an entry. The Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan collaboration probably will put pressure on profits for middlemen in the healthcare supply chain.”

“Details were scant in a short joint statement Tuesday. The three companies said they plan to set up a new independent company “that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”

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AMAZON
Stocks sink

“That was enough to sink healthcare stocks. Express Scripts Holding Co. and CVS Health Corp., which manage pharmacy benefits, slumped 9.7% and 5.7%, respectively. Health insurers such as Cigna Corp. and Anthem Inc. also dropped.”

“The group announced the news in the very early stages because it plans to hire a chief executive and start partnering with other organizations, according to a person familiar with the matter. The effort would be focused internally first, and the companies would bring their data and bargaining power to bear on lowering healthcare costs, the person said. Potential ways to bring down costs include providing more transparency over the prices for doctor visits and lab tests, as well as by enabling direct purchasing of some medical items, the person said.”

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BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY

“I’m in favor of anything that helps move the markets a bit, incentivizes competition and puts pressure on the big insurance carriers,” said Ashraf Shehata, a partner in KPMG’s healthcare and life sciences advisory practice in the United States. “An employer coalition can do a lot of things. You can encourage reimbursement models and provide incentives for the use of technology.”

“Bezos doesn’t expect the new venture to achieve its goals overnight. “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,” he said in the statement. “Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.”

“The initial focus of the new company will be on technology solutions that can provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable costs. In the statement, JPMorgan CEO Dimon said the initiative could ultimately expand beyond the three companies.”

“Our goal is to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans,” he said.”

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WARREN BUFFET
High costs

“Any solutions the company devises would find a huge and receptive audience. With about 151 million non-elderly people, employer-sponsored coverage is the largest part of the U.S. health insurance market.”

“Companies get a tax break for offering health benefits to their workers, and many employers also see those benefits as a crucial tool for attracting and keeping workers. But costs are soaring and healthcare consumes a growing chunk of their budgets. Small businesses have been under particular strain.”

“Only 50% of companies with three to 49 employees offered coverage last year, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s down from 66% more than a decade ago. The federal Affordable Care Act requires all companies with 50 or more full-time employees to offer it.”

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“Healthcare spending was estimated to account for about 18% of the U.S. economy last year, far more than in other developed nations. Despite efforts to curb costs, studies suggest that U.S. doctors and hospitals continue to provide too much healthcare. In a survey of physicians’ perspectives published last year in the journal PLOS One, the average estimate was that 20% of medical care was unneeded, including about a quarter of tests, a fifth of prescriptions and more than 1 in 10 medical procedures.”

“Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan are among the largest private employers in the U.S., with a more than 1 million workers combined. And they’re among the most valuable, with a combined market capitalization of $1.6 trillion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”

“This isn’t the first time big companies have teamed up in an effort to tackle healthcare cost. International Business Machines Corp., Berkshire’s BNSF Railway and American Express Co. were among the founding members of the Health Transformation Alliance, which now includes about 40 big companies that want to transform healthcare. The group ultimately partnered with existing industry players including CVS and UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s OptumRx.”

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Todd Combs

The latest effort is being spearheaded by Todd Combs, who helps oversee investments at Berkshire; Marvelle Sullivan Berchtold, a managing director of JPMorgan; and Beth Galetti, a senior vice president for human resources at Amazon.

Buffett handpicked Combs in 2010 as one of his two key stockpickers. Combs, 47, has been taking on a larger role at Berkshire in recent years, and Buffett has said that Combs and Ted Weschler, who also helps oversee investments, will eventually manage the company’s whole portfolio. Combs also joined JPMorgan’s board in 2016.

Sullivan Berchtold joined JPMorgan in August after eight years at the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, where she was most recently the global head of mergers and acquisitions, according to her LinkedIn profile.

The management team, location of the headquarters and other operational details will be announced later, the companies said.

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TODD COMDS

Buffett has long bemoaned the cost of U.S. healthcare. Last year he came out in favor of drastic changes in the U.S. health system, telling PBS NewsHour that government-run healthcare is probably the best approach and would bring down costs.

“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” Buffett said in Tuesday’s statement. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable.”

4 comments

  1. Gronda, I applaud their efforts. It would be nice if they also petitioned Congress to shore up deficiencies as well in various health insurance systems rather than trying to play zero-sum political games. But, if they can build a better paradigm for employers, great. Keith

    • Dear Keith,

      Some on the left are more critical because they want Medicare for all. I disagree because I believe the chances for passing anything like this anytime soon is nil. I want something done period. I am thrilled that Bezos, Dimon and Buffet are willing to tackle this issue.

      Hugs, Gronda

  2. It’s hopeful but I’d love to see prescription prices brought down. It’s terrible that some elderly have to choose between food and medicines. I heard some are going to Canada to get prescriptions filled. Also, lifespans are shrinking in the U.S. while scientists talk about lengthening them. —- Suzanne

    • Dear Suzanne,

      I have been doing a little research on this topic. The FDA does prohibit pharmacies from selling prescriptions from another country but people do it all the time. The FDA is not going to follow up all the grandmas who purchase their drugs online from Canada for example. The question I am researching is how does the purchaser really know that the drugs are coming from Canada, a country that also stringently regulates its drugs.

      Hugs, Gronda

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