Expert Advice For The Corporate Titans Taking On Health Care

05 February, 2018, 06:35 | Author: Shannon Aguilar
  • Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase join forces to tackle employees' health-care costs

Of course, this is not a surprise since anything Amazon, for one, takes on shakes the incumbents. But this one might be different. It's no secret that Amazon is eyeing up the pharmaceutical distribution market and last October it received a number of wholesale pharmacy licenses, so those plans may be enveloped into this new initiative. And even then, insurers talk in terms of billing codes, while doctors deal with diagnoses and outcomes.

The marriage of the two through new organisational forms such as Accountable Care Organisations and payment units like bundled payments - for something like a hip or knee replacement, for example - show promise that the elements can collaborate but only in defined areas. A recent IHS Markit study found that a basket of 30 innovative pharmaceuticals cost about a third as much in Germany, U.K., Spain and Italy as in the U.S. The U.S. protects its pharma market, making it hard to import cheaper medicines than those produced by local companies - but it can't ban companies with large overseas operations from exporting patients.

You may not know that most employer-based "insurance" isn't insurance at all. It's just a way for a contracted entity that looks like an insurer to act as a purchasing agent and paymaster for the real deep pockets: the self-insured employer. It's not hard to imagine, however, how the three companies could set up a large, closed system that could serve as a blueprint for the only disruptor with the ability to fix the entrenched, inefficient USA health care system - the US government. I hope Amazon realizes this early and does not think that [its smart digital assistant] Alexa and apps are going to make us healthier and save any money.

It all sounds most interesting but Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos seems to be well aware of the difficulty they are facing in reducing the enormous cost of healthcare in the States. The three companies together employ more than a million people.

Beyond that, health care needs to be financed. And they insist the new system will improve the services available to employees.

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Both Aetna and CVS are making a bet on the way health care will be delivered in the future, experts say, with a focus on one-stop shops in local communities offering a range of health and wellness services from walk-in clinics to filling prescriptions. This is a huge problem in American healthcare.

But none of these have done the job.

But the medical industry does not own Amazon, the world's largest internet company, or Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate Fortune ranks as America's third-most-profitable company, or JPMorgan Chase, America's biggest bank. The alliance will apply only to their employees. Amazon has taught everyone how to shop far better online than in stores and JPMorgan has had extensive experience with Health Savings Accounts, which are tax-sheltered savings accounts paired with high-deductible insurance polices that eligible people can use to pay for health care costs. What they're trying to do is get their arms around the fact that if everyone else is controlling all the delivery mechanisms, they all have a profit motive. While details on the new collaboration now remain scant, Friend believes the company could ultimate leverage those items to deliver better health care.

Trump also mentioned "right to try" laws, which would give patients access to experimental drugs. It would still be worth building a separate health care system for big company employees, though, just to show the US government how it could be done. Also of concern are the role of skyrocketing drug prices protected by patents and direct-to-consumer advertising; expensive end-of-life decisions; explosive potential use of genetic information; and prevention and management of chronic conditions derived from personal choices. They also fear slippery slopes and know that the socialization of one industry could mean that theirs is next.

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