Psst! Here’s the Latest on Amazon-Berkshire-JPM

Last year’s bombshell announcement that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase were forming a new healthcare joint venture to find new, better and less costly ways to provide healthcare for their employees generated shockwaves for weeks. Since then, however, it’s been pretty quiet. The venture still hasn’t even made its name public, let alone any details on how it will achieve its ambitious goals.

Then this New York Times article appeared, reporting on an unsuccessful lawsuit filed by Optum hoping to prevent a former employee from working for the venture – a request that the U.S. District Court denied. During his testimony, John Stoddard, the venture’s chief operating officer, revealed a few details of the companies’ plans to revamp health insurance in terms of benefit design. While it’s far from a blueprint, some intriguing themes emerged from his testimony.

One key goal is to bolster the importance of primary care. Mr. Stoddard said the startup will test ways to make primary care more accessible to patients, and to make it easier for doctors to “spend more time, not less time” providing care. Potentially the venture would partner with organizations like Optum that have a large network of primary-care doctors.

The venture is also looking to lower the cost of drugs for chronic conditions. In Mr. Stoddard’s testimony, he indicated that the new venture has no plans to compete with existing pharmacy-benefit managers, but instead wants to better understand the process and the actual cost of drugs. The companies also want to analyze doctor and hospital data to identify where employees can get quality care for lower prices. Data analysis, of course, is something Amazon does well.

We support the venture’s initiatives to improve the US healthcare system, which echo concepts in our own framework for employer-driven health system transformation. It’s exciting to see Amazon and other corporations focused on finding new ways to lower the cost and improve the quality of healthcare. Here is last year’s post covering our initial thoughts on the venture. As the largest purchasing body of healthcare (181 million people), employers have a long history of caring about healthcare and driving innovations to achieve higher quality, lower cost and better outcomes. For some examples, check out the white paper we co-authored with American Benefits Council on Employer Innovations in Health Care. Stay tuned for updates on latest developments.

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