Today, three major companies – Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway – announced their hopes of fixing healthcare by getting into the business. Their leaders, Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett, have long been lauded as game changers, but this may be their most ambitious endeavor yet.
Undoubtedly, employers are frustrated by how much healthcare costs are rising. We can see how companies with cash on hand and a focus on value and innovation may believe they have the size and scale to find new solutions. While the details have yet to be shared, a shift of large employers in this direction could spur more emphasis on innovation and foster healthy competition.
Here are four themes we’ll be watching as this story evolves:
1. Will this Disrupt the Industry?
No one would argue that healthcare is a satisfying experience at this point, yet the system has been largely resistant to change. Even a comprehensive healthcare law that brought 20 million new patients into the market didn’t fundamentally change the way the broader healthcare system works. In an industry that has traditionally been bound by inertia, could this be the disruptor that pushes the industry to move forward?
2. Will Non-Health Care Experts Be Prepared for the Complexities?
Healthcare is extremely complicated. There are multiple decision makers at every step, tremendous complexities around data capture and patient privacy, and the emotional stakes are high. Fresh thinking is always valuable and is critical for disruption, but it is also naïve to assume there will be simple fixes.
3. What Will This Mean for Employees?
All of these companies have large global workforces, yet likely have established different expectations with their employees around what types of healthcare will be provided. For JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway, top-tier health care benefits can differentiate them during recruiting in a competitive hiring environment, whereas Amazon is likely more focused on offering a range of modest coverage options for a large labor pool that has a physical component to daily work. Designing solutions to meet a range of employee needs will add to the complexity of this endeavor.
4. What Role Does Each Company Play in This Effort?
These companies may seem like strange partners on the surface, yet each brings unique benefits to the partnership. Berkshire Hathaway brings an institutional understanding of the insurance space, as it owns GEICO, General Re and Medical Protective, among other insurance entities. Amazon has the distribution infrastructure in place, has been making waves about getting into the pharmacy space and has a long history of innovation. JP Morgan brings a keen understanding of the global healthcare market and financing expertise.