The world’s largest online retailer and two of America’s biggest financial institutions announced Tuesday that they are partnering on a groundbreaking initiative to improve health care for their employees. The companies collectively employ more than 1.1 million workers, according to CNBC.com.
Inside Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire’s plan to disrupt health care
While details about the venture are few, the companies have raised eyebrows by promising to implement the health care plan “through an independent company that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” according to a joint press release.
The move marks a significant jump from the core businesses of all three entities, but signals to Washington that if they can’t come up with a health care fix, the business world isn’t afraid to step up to the (operating) table. The new entity will focus initially on technology but the ramifications are so enormous that if it is successful, the plan could morph into a broader model that could scale across corporate America.
Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett cited health care costs as the reason for the formation of the as-yet unnamed company.
“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” 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.”
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos echoed those sentiments, affirming that the health care system needs disruption if it is to succeed. “The health care system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” he 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. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.”
The news comes as more Americans go without coverage amid skyrocketing health care costs. New figures from the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index show that the uninsured rate rose to 12.2%, a 1.3 percentage point increase from the previous year.
“The 1.3-point increase in the uninsured rate during 2017 is the largest single-year increase Gallup and Sharecare have measured since beginning to track the rate in 2008, including the period before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect,” a summary accompanied with the poll says.
Affordable health care has been a hot-button issue in recent years as lawmakers in Congress wrestle over ways to repeal the controversial Affordable Health Care Act. Millions of Americans also continue to grapple with how to bring their health care costs under control. Here are some tips to remember when it comes to lowering your health care bill.
3 ways to save on health care costs
Ask your doctor how much the procedure costs: When the nation’s health care system was a bit more sturdier, doctors would take offense if you asked them how much a procedure or medication would cost you — but not anymore. If you’re saddled with one of those high-deductible insurance plans, it may well be worth the money to pay out of pocket for what you need done —but you’ll never know if you don’t ask.
Comparison shop: There are multiple websites out there where you can see medical prices, prescriptions and even doctors advertising their expertise for sale. MediBid is one such site. There’s also FairHealthConsumer.org and GoodRx.com for prescriptions, plus many more.
Go generic: If the prescription your doctor recommends is crazy expensive, ask them about affordable generic alternatives. Pharmaceutical companies have great incentive to produce cheaper brands of the top medicines to cover the market’s lower end.