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There Is No Safe Haven for Patients in the Privatized U.S. Health Care System.

Posted on | January 6, 2021 | 1 Comment

Mike Magee

TIME correspondent Karl Vick, in an article titled “What Happens When Amazon Takes on Health Care”, in February, 2018, wrote:  “The U.S. health care system is the antithesis of Silicon Valley.” But is it really? 

Vick was referring then to the formation of a new, as yet unnamed non-profit joint venture between Jeff Bezos (Amazon). Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), and Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan Chase) The triad was joining ranks, they said, to finally bring efficiency and quality to American health care. It would be another nine months before they could settle on a name for the venture – Haven (as in safe haven for their 1.3 million combined employees).

The very public collapse of Haven this week left it unclear whether they were public-spirited crusaders or simply predatory investors in one of the most profitable segments of our national economy.

Analysts have wasted no time piling on. As one said, “Haven had a rocky three years, running up against vague marching orders, a lack of direction, and obstacles inherent to the healthcare landscape.” Another analyst added,  this “is a reminder that the U.S. healthcare sector is incredibly resistant to makeovers…” 

Insiders pointed to an absence of organizational cohesiveness. All three partners were also pursuing independent ventures in the health care space, and were continually running into proprietary roadblocks.

Amazon, in particular, had its own agenda. Their wearable health tracker, Amazon Halo, augmented by Alexa features, was now joined by virtual and in-person Amazon Care clinics for its own employees. Those employees have access to premium priced prescription drugs after the company purchased PillPack for $753 million in June, 2018.

Other analysts noted a lack of momentum. The first market forays – like their new no-deductible insurance policy – was slow to come and not overwhelmingly embraced by the 30,000 JP Morgan employees. There were also rumors that Amazon in particular was about to pull its financial support.

And yet, it is useful to ask why none of the Triad seem to have regrets. 

Jamie Dimon said, “Haven worked best as an incubator of ideas, a place to pilot, test and learn—and a way to share best practices across our companies. Our learnings have been invaluable.”

Warren Buffett said previously, that this was a “a first step in what is bound to be a long journey.“

And a Bezos spokesperson noted, “The venture’s backers found Haven was a good venue to test new ideas and best practices that could be better implemented individually.”

With the election of Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia, and the shift of Senate control to the Democrats, will health services continue to be an investment darling?

McKinsey & Company this week offered a qualified yes in a report titled,  “The future of healthcare: Value creation through next-generation business models.” 

With a straight face, they begin: “The healthcare industry in the United States has experienced steady growth over the past decade while simultaneously promoting quality, efficiency, and access to care.” 

But in their next breath comes a yellow caution: “The next three years are expected to be less positive for the economics of the healthcare industry, as profit pools are more likely to be flat.”

Where does McKinsey & Company see profit? They flag information technology, telehealth, and virtual services and delivery as opportunity areas saying, “In the provider vertical, the rapid acceleration in the use of telehealth and other virtual care options spurred by COVID-19 could continue. Growth is expected across a range of sub-segments in the services and technology vertical, as specialized players are able to provide services at scale (for example, software and platforms and data and analytics).”

That should make the Triad smile, but cause patients to shudder. 

Comments

One Response to “There Is No Safe Haven for Patients in the Privatized U.S. Health Care System.”

  1. donorcure
    January 19th, 2021 @ 10:28 pm

    Absolutely! Another problematic issue with the joint room system is the ongoing drug epidemic. This leads to vulnerable patients potentially being exposed to patients who have high-risk behaviors which may be disruptive to their care.

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