It’s no secret that U.S. health care is not the most efficient of systems. While the uninsured rate had decreased to 10.9% under Obamacare by the end of 2016, more than 3 million additional Americans were uninsured by the end of last year, bringing the rate up to 12.2%.
Despite employers’ continual efforts to limit health care costs and lighten the burden on their employees’ wallets, there’s been no clear solution.
But JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway may be changing that. On Tuesday (Jan. 30), the three corporate giants announced a new joint venture: they’ll be partnering to offer their U.S employees “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost,” according to a statement, and they’ll “pursue this objective through an independent company that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”
While the announcement is light on operational details — it doesn’t even mention the name of said “independent company” — the intention behind the initiative is clear. As Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, puts it, “our people want transparency, knowledge and control when it comes to managing their health care. The three of our companies have extraordinary resources, and our goal is to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans.”
How, exactly, will the roughly 1.2 million Americans employed by these three companies benefit? According to ABC News, benefits experts have a few hypotheses: the initiative may work like a virtual marketplace, where employees can shop for health insurance as easily as they can buy a shirt on Amazon; it might buy prescription drugs; or it may even connect directly with doctors and hospitals to secure better details, bypassing insurance companies entirely.
If this is the start of a trend, as Dimon suggests it may one day be, that could mean that you might eventually be able to shop online for healthcare services and enjoy access to more affordable options. In short, you may one day have slightly (or maybe even significantly) fewer headaches as you navigate the complexities of the healthcare system.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, doesn’t pretend that he, Dimon and Buffett have all the answers; in fact, he says outright that “the healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty.” Yet he adds that “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."
Buffett adds that by pooling resources, the three companies hope to limit rising healthcare costs — which he dubs a “hungry tapeworm on the American economy” — while also improving patient satisfaction.
"One of the messages they are sending is they've given up on traditional ways in which employers have tried to reduce costs or manage costs better," Paul Fronstin, an economist with the nonprofit Employee Benefits Research Institute, told ABC News.
Indeed, the trio is tackling the healthcare industry from a decidedly non-traditional route — and with their combined resources and influence, this disruption could be a game-changer for the American workforce.