American companies attempt to internalize healthcare

Feb 20th, 2018 | By | Category: 2017-2018, News

By Kellen Bulger
News Editor

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced that they are intending to partner, with the goal being to “address healthcare for their U.S. employees, with the aim of improving employee satisfaction and reducing costs.”

The release of this joint statement from the three giants in American industry certainly didn’t happen quietly, as following the statement, United Health (the largest healthcare company by revenue) dropped 3 percent. Insurance providers Anthem, Cigna, Aetna and Humana all fell by at least 3 percent. All of this resulted in the Dow dropping more than 300 points a little over a week ago.

Despite the reverberations felt in the stock market recently, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase see all this as part of the plan. Up to this point in American healthcare, companies have largely stood on the sideline when it comes to care for their own employees. Many large companies are in fact self-insured and do not delineate this responsibility to a third-party. However, the aforementioned tech giants signal a face change in policy where instead of outsourcing all the responsibilities of running a health plan, the companies do it themselves. All of this with the intention of “reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

The idea of employers taking healthcare into their own hands may undoubtedly seem like a major shift in healthcare dealings domestically, however on a global scale this is nowhere near the case.

In China, the government is largely supportive of large companies who reside in the country taking care of healthcare internally as it goes hand in hand with the country’s goal to be a global leader in artificial intelligence. This movement to integrate technology and healthcare needs is not a seamless one however. A Chinese search engine company “Baidu” attempted to create an app where patients could schedule doctor appointments, but only to have it scrapped shortly thereafter. Another company called Alibaba attempted to set up a website with the goal of being able to order prescriptions digitally, only to have it stopped two years after its inception as well.

So, while Amazon certainly occupies vastly different areas of the tech industry than your average smartphone app startup, there is one thing that’s clear — American healthcare is complicated. Unfortunately, the silver bullet that we all hope for is likely not to come from even some of the most well connected entities within our own country. The road to affordable healthcare will likely not only be a long and winding one, but one that will also demand help from a myriad of independent actors.

However that doesn’t mean that technological solutions to some of the smaller issues within our own system can’t be apart of this long and winding road to affordable healthcare and at least at the moment, that seems to be a goal of Amazon’s.

“The initial focus of the new company will be on technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.”

While the joint press release from the companies provided little specifics as to how their approach will be implemented, the mere fact that it caused the ripple through the American economy that it did, just by its suggestion, shows the demand for costs to go down. This multi-faceted approach moving forward could be a blip in the radar, but the motivations behind it will not—that’s known.

 

kpbulger@willamette.edu

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