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Amazon, big finance spearhead healthcare effort without 'profit-making incentives'

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase have announced plans to develop a program to pare down health care costs initially for their own employees, but with a suggestion that it could expand the effort to the rest of Americans in the future.




Few details of the program are publicly known at the moment. All three firms note that they have done little prior to the announcement beyond assigning an executive in charge at each company, but the releases accompanying the news say that "technology solutions" developed by a stand-alone company will be applied first to simplify health care.

"The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy. Our group does not come to this problem with answers," Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Warren Buffet saidt. "But we also do not accept it as inevitable. Rather, we share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country's best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes."

While limited at first to the 1.1 million employees spanning the three companies, there are suggestions that the effort will expand to the rest of the country, should it prove successful.

"Our people want transparency, knowledge and control when it comes to managing their healthcare," JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said. "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."

Rumors have swirled for years regarding Amazon's entry into the market, either as a vendor for inexpensive prescription drugs, or as part of a larger role.

"The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty," Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said. "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."

The spin-off company responsible for deploying the technical solutions at first will be run by Amazon Senior Vice President Beth Galetti, Todd Combs from Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Managing Director Marvelle Sullivan Berchtold.

At present, it isn't clear if external solutions like Apple's health record initiative, or Apple Watch data, will be integrated into any solution accepted by the company. Regardless, the move by Amazon and the finance companies may open acceptance to disruption of existing healthcare solutions to more people and organizations, instead of Apple having to try to pry open doors itself.