This January, news broke of the upcoming healthcare mega-company, with three main players in the game: Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan. The recent announcement of the health alliance promises to disrupt the healthcare industry, and it has thrown the market into a tizzy, CNBC reports.
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What’s the motivation behind this alliance? Esther Dyson, executive founder of Wellville, states, “Is it three smart, powerful, rich men who see a problem—a market inefficiency, perhaps—and want to fix it? Is it to save money on healthcare, to invest in making their employees healthier and more productive or perhaps to become more attractive as employers?”
Only time and progress will pull back the curtain, but let’s dive in a little further.
Can This Merger Lower Healthcare Costs for North Carolinians? How?
Sure, the lowering of healthcare costs is critical. But this alliance promises more than that.
Some arguers outline the uphill battle, calling the U.S. healthcare system a "mess." CNBC explains:
Making [healthcare] more efficient and cheaper would indeed be a big win and would help millions of people....But it still wouldn't address the bigger problem for employers (and society): keeping people healthy in the first place.
But the benefits to the partnership are also clear; there are strengths each player will offer that could bring some long-awaited transparency and “accountable care” to the U.S. healthcare system.
When the announcement was made, we learned that e-commerce giant Amazon has the potential negotiating power to offer multiple healthcare providers, reduce the costs of drug prescriptions and—not surprisingly—store massive amounts of data and information. (You’ll see Amazon apply the same tactics of retargeting in healthcare to remind you to refill your prescriptions, for example.)
Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire have access to a broad (and critical) network they can tap into, which is key. These groups can influence the decisions within their own companies (taking away bad food, for instance) and reward their employees for making healthy decisions (offering free, healthy food alternatives), CNBC explains. By positively influencing the environment and culture in which their employees spend 40-plus hours a week, these groups take great interest in their employees’ health—which can reduce medical costs and increase productivity, positively affecting the employer’s bottom line.
What Does Success Look Like for This Partnership?
Dyson explains that healthcare in itself determines only a fraction of actual health outcomes. Genetics is another small percentage. The majority of the influence comes from social and lifestyle factors, Dyson says—where you live, how you eat, whether you get enough sleep and exercise.
Long-term success could prove true if the intentions of the partnership remain accounted for and clear. Each group could aim to change healthcare within their own companies—they’ll offer their U.S. employees a not-for-profit health insurance option, for example. So the big potential win for these groups would be if Berkshire, Amazon and JP Morgan could do everything in their power to support the overall health of employees, rather than just attracting them with cheaper and better coverage. This ensures both the long-term health of employees and a reduction in healthcare costs, because less healthcare is needed.
Amazon, Berkshire and JP Morgan are large enough and influential enough to change culture, and [they’re] well-positioned to make a difference, which CNBC states is “what cultivating health at scale is about.” For North Carolinians, that means the hope for an alliance that can inspire others to set clear, intentional goals to positively move the meter in the healthcare space.
Read more about the Berkshire-Amazon-JP Morgan partnership here.