Can Amazon healthcare parry single-payer?

The announcement that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will “create a nonprofit health care company to cut costs and improve services for their combined 1.1 million workers” could portend a private-sector alternative to the Democrats’ single-payer healthcare plans, as reports:

This could be the true price-reducing disruption to the health care sector the U.S. economy and its citizens have wanted for decades.

The new company is to be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” language that at first sounds like the Bernie Sanders “Medicare for All” proposal that would “eliminate insurance industry profits” and rein in “overhead.”

While the announcement was “short on details but long on disruption,” sending “shock waves through the health-care industry,” Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase says “our goal is to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans.” (emphasis added)

Jake Novak at says the Tuesday hit to health insurer stock prices is a “clear indicator that insurance industry investors believe this new company will identify them as non-essential middle men and cut them out.”

It may or may not be the health insurers' fault, but they're not solving the problem. ObamaCare didn't solve it, either.

Novak suggests a few specifics for the new venture:

  • Set up “in-house” “urgent care” facilities to add convenience and cut “lost productivity.”
  • “Leverage” “those 1.1 million employees” to “negotiate better prices from every entity from hospitals to the drug companies.”
  • Acquire its “own hospitals and/or its own generic drug company.”
  • Invest in “cost-saving medical technology” such as remote diagnosis.

Novak says “that if other big employers see the new partnership actually succeeding, some will surely follow suit and millions more Americans will start enjoying the same benefits.”   

Another columnist, Christina Farr, points out that a non-profit Amazon-led venture could also cut prescription drug costs by squeezing out “pharmacy benefits managers – intermediaries that now make huge profits through sales of generic drugs in particular.”

Novak’s conclusion: “Things are so costly and getting worse that even this announcement of a coming attempt to cut into the cost of care is beyond just welcome.”

While the new venture “isn’t the first time big companies have teamed up in an effort to tackle health-care costs,” and Berkshire’s Warren Buffet has said he favors “government-run health care,” Amazon’s history as a cost-disruptor, combined with the market power of three of the “largest private employers” in the country, might be enough to bring down costs and counter the Democrat argument for single payer approaches.

The Sanders Democrats, including several of the “potential 2020 presidential candidates,” have bought into Medicare for All, hook, line and sinker:

The Democratic Party is increasingly wrapping itself in the flag of Medicare for all… Bernie Sanders proved the concept of how popular and motivating this can be for voters.

But a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Chris Jacobs observes that the Sanders bill would be more accurately named “Medicare for None”:

The Orwellian way in which Mr. Sanders characterizes his plan speaks to the larger problem facing the left, whose plans for health care remain so radical that speaking of them honestly would prompt instant repulsion from most voters.

The Sanders bill would end virtually all current health care coverage, including employer insurance and Medicare, replacing it with a Sanders program that borrows the Medicare name.

Selling a bill that would abolish Medicare as “Medicare for All” takes some chutzpah -- akin to the promise that if you like your health-care plan, you can keep it. Here’s hoping that the American people, having been subjected once to the disastrous consequences of the left’s reassuring but deceitful rhetoric on health care, don’t get fooled again.

In contrast to the Sanders plan, the Amazon-Berkshire-Morgan joint venture seeks to establish a nonprofit private company that would reduce the role and cost of health insurers, pharmacy managers and other intermediaries, thereby squeezing costs – and profits – out of the healthcare system. 

Amazon has already blurred the line between a for-profit corporation and a not-for-profit cost disruptor. As John Markman at wrote of Amazon last year:

Profits are so yesterday. Now it’s all about vision and great storytelling.

It remains to be seen whether the Amazon-Berkshire-Morgan venture can wring the costs out of the health care system before the Sanders Democrats can ratchet up their Medicare for All rhetoric.

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