Amazon & Friends End the Haven Experiment: A Few Takeaways

Surely when they chose the name “Haven” for their joint venture, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase, and Amazon were envisioning a safe space away from the complexity and turmoil of the US healthcare system. Now, after just two years, the harbor is officially closing.

With a roster of big names and impressive hires, Haven generated speculation that it would be the next big disruptor in healthcare. Of particular interest was Haven’s stated approach to think first about the employees of the three participating organization, rather than on consumers broadly. At Mercer, we think about the employee healthcare experience constantly, and finding new and better routes to care is paramount to our clients. The idea of an Amazon-like customer healthcare experience backed by the likes of Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon was pretty intriguing. Unfortunately for Prime fans (like me), that consumer experience never materialized. It remains to be seen if and how the three entities that made up Haven will take action independently in the healthcare arena.

In particular, we’ll be watching Amazon, which has recently launched “Amazon Pharmacy” and is rumored to be expanding their current employee program for virtual care, “Amazon Care” to other employer plan sponsors. If Amazon can bring about even a fraction of the innovation it brought to e-commerce, the healthcare system (and employers) should be watching. Such offerings could serve employers in two ways: Creating competition with incumbents gives employers alterative options, which in turn gives them leverage in negotiations. Amazon’s innovation might also force current healthcare giants to reevaluate and revamp their own offerings. Players that don’t (or can’t) innovate risk suffering the same fate of brick-and-mortar book stores.

Haven’s demise demonstrates that it will take more than big names and buzz to create meaningful change. For the US healthcare system, there’s no single solution or entity that will deliver transform our system to deliver higher quality care at lower cost. In order to drive change toward higher value care, it will require collective action involving not just a few employers, but other stakeholders like health plans, regulators, and providers, all working toward common goals. This work has begun, as our reporting from the 2020 HLTH conference demonstrates. Let’s keep the momentum going.

Kate Brown
by Kate Brown

Leader, Center for Health Innovation, Mercer

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