Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase on Tuesday announced plans to partner on ways to cut health-care costs and improve services for their U.S. employees. The announcement slammed the shares of multiple companies in the health-care sector.
Together, the three companies employ more than 1.1 million workers.
The three massive companies will launch an independent outfit initially targeting technology solutions, with the intention to be an umbrella firm that would be “free from profit-making incentives.”
Details of the new company were sketchy, with principles of each firm noting that the way it will work remains to be seen. They’re hoping that the sheer size of each firm will help bring the necessary scale and resources to tackle the issue.
“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett said in a statement. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. 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.”
Three top executives, one from each company, will take the lead on the project: Investment officer Todd Combs at Berkshire, Marvelle Sullivan Berchtold at J.P. Morgan, and Beth Galetti, a senior vice president at Amazon.
Combs was a hedge fund manager before joining Berkshire in 2010. Berchtold was previously global head of mergers and acquisitions at drugmaker Novartis before joining J.P. Morgan last year, and Galetti served as FedEx’s vice president for planning, engineering and operations before joining Amazon in 2013, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
“The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “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.”
“Our people want transparency, knowledge and control when it comes to managing their healthcare,” said JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. “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.”
The new company’s goal at first will be to target technology solutions to simplify the health-care system.
“I think it is good news,” Allergan CEO Brent Saunders told CNBC. “The health-care delivery system is antiquated and in dire need of positive disruption. My hope is these three companies light the spark!”
Adam Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting, said it’s “long past time” for employers like these three to force innovation into the health-care system.
“For better or worse, there are warped incentives baked into every aspect of the U.S. health-care system, from medical innovation to care delivery to insurance and benefit management,” Fein told CNBC. “Rather than merely bashing the current system, I hope this new organization can help patients and their physicians make more informed and more cost-effective decisions. Technology will be necessary but not sufficient to make positive changes.”
Analysts echoed the sentiment that the health-care system is outdated and ripe for disruption, paving the way for the new endeavor. However, they cautioned it could take time.
“If this winds up being the low cost provider to make insurance more affordable at employer level, it could wind up being a real disruptive competitor to an industry that has not seen any new players in years/decades,” Jefferies analyst Jared Holz told CNBC. “Not going to call this black swan event yet because there are few details and would be making too many assumptions but it has potential to be.”
Leerink Partners’ Ana Gupte said the comments suggest the leaders view the endeavor as one that’s “complex, challenging and thorny and that will take time to bear fruit.”
Shares of each company were little changed in premarket trading.
However, shares of other leaders in the industry fell sharply. CVS and UnitedHealth each were off about 7 percent in premarket trading and ExpressScripts fell nearly 8 percent and Aetna was down about 3 percent.