BREAKING: Amazon/ Berkshire/JP Morgan Haven project gets worms

I can't begin to tell you what a Big Deal® lots of people made this announcement out to be three years ago...without having a clue WTF it was actually about:

Amazon, Berkshire, JPMorgan Move to Target Health-Care Costs

Three corporate giants are teaming up to combat what billionaire Warren Buffett calls a “hungry tapeworm” feasting on the U.S. economy: health care.

OK, I'm interested...

Amazon.com Inc., Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. said they plan to collaborate on a way to offer health-care services to their U.S. employees more transparently and at a lower cost. The three companies plan to set up a new independent company “that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” according to a short statement on Tuesday.

Ummmm...ok, so it only applies to their own employees. That means it presumably has nothing to do with the individual market (which is the area most desperately in need of fixes/improvement) or the small group market. It's also limited to employees (and presumably their families) of these three companies only, at least for now. So we're talking about around 1.2 million employees; if you include their families, that's around 2.9 million people total.

Don't get me wrong, it's interesting to be sure. Doing it themselves instead of via a third party administrator will presumably save some money, and making it non-profit will save some more (although they'd also be the ones making the payments, so that could simply be a matter of less money shuffling from their own left pocket to their right pocket). Increased efficiency of the delivery system will certainly shave a few bucks off the costs.

I'm just not sure I understand all the "Game Changer!" hype being thrown around Twitter this am. It sounds very much to me like this amounts to three big corporations becoming self-insured via one merged pool instead of three separate ones. That's fine, and I'm sure it'll cause ripples across the industry, but unless/until they open up the same risk pool to individual market enrollees as well, it's hard for me to get too excited here.

Or, put a bit more harshly:

Why do I get the feeling this Amazon/Berkshire/JP Morgan thing is gonna turn out to be the Segway of health insurance? https://t.co/Y4jgBdt5Vj

— Charles #GetCovered-ba (@charles_gaba) January 30, 2018

 

Cut to moments ago:

Haven, the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan venture to disrupt healthcare, is disbanding after 3 years

Haven, the joint venture formed by three of America’s most powerful companies to lower costs and improve outcomes in health care, is disbanding after three years, CNBC has learned exclusively.

The company began informing employees Monday that it will shut down by the end of next month, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Many of the Boston-based firm’s 57 workers are expected to be placed at Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway or JPMorgan Chase as the firms each individually push forward in their efforts, and the three companies are still expected to collaborate informally on healthcare projects, the people said.

The announcement three years ago that the CEOs of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase had teamed up to tackle one of the biggest problems facing corporate America – high and rising costs for employee health care  – sent shock waves throughout the world of medicine. Shares of healthcare companies tumbled on fears about how the combined might of leaders in technology and finance could wring costs out of the system.

Short version: Healthcare is complicated.