by Carter Beck, January 19, 2021
The disbanding of Haven Healthcare at the end of February, the joint venture among Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase, has not received the media attention it did when its formation was announced almost 3 years ago. At the time of its creation, the market was certain that Haven would become the newest disrupter in the health care sector. Consequently, publicly traded health care stocks took a nosedive.
Haven never really got any traction or forward momentum on its stated goal of improving the quality of health care, while reducing costs, to the joint venturers’ employees. There are many theories why this was the case, including Amazon’s continued focus on its own initiative, Amazon Care, a revolving door of executives within Haven, and the realistic and complex health care environment within which Haven found itself. In reality, the approximate 1.5 million employees of the 3 companies was hardly enough critical mass to make an impact in the complex health care ecosystem. Neither the private insurance carriers nor the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which collectively provide coverage to hundreds of millions of Americans, has yet been able to make consequential and lasting improvements to the health care system.
The reason why making meaningful change to the cost and quality of health care in America is so difficult is that one “player” in the complex, and highly matrixed health care ecosystem is not enough to initiate changes; rather, the entire ecosystem must be willing to change. To date, that has not been the case. Even as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obama Care), the government only sought to change the health insurance segment, while not addressing the concerns and problems that reside with the rest of the ecosystem, including hospitals, physicians, and drug companies. Unless and until there is a massive overhaul of the entire ecosystem, sustainable and needed change will not occur.
Despite Haven’s laudable and lofty goals, it was doomed to fail from the beginning. Instead, what America needs is an administration that is willing to take a head-on approach to working with (and regulating) all players in the health care ecosystem and to require each of them to make difficult and perhaps costly changes to how, where and when health care is delivered. Without massive changes, the American health care system will continue to be the costliest system on the planet with no significant improvement in overall health, quality or cost.