Three heads are better than 535
by Richard D. Kocur
Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Jamie Dimon vs. the entire United States Congress? My money is on Buffett, Bezos, and Dimon. These men, three of the wealthiest, most influential, and powerful business leaders in the world, recently announced an alliance that will attempt to address the tangled knot that is the U.S. healthcare system.
Buffett, leader of Berkshire Hathaway, Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, and Dimon, Chairman of JPMorgan Chase, have formed a new but yet un-named company in order to develop innovative solutions to the pressing problems facing healthcare in the United States. Each are placing the considerable resources at their disposal, including financing, technological expertise, and innovative thinking, behind an effort to reach that end. At first, the company will be focused only on a healthcare product for employees within the entities Buffett, Bezos, and Dimon oversee. If all goes well, however, the innovations and cost saving measures that come out of this effort will be applied more broadly.
For the past few years, members of Congress have tried and failed to make strides in healthcare reform due to partisan gridlock and a too narrow view of what reform should actually mean. In fact, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, legislators have actually made access to affordable healthcare more difficult for the people with the greatest need. Repealing Obamacare was a necessary step but enacting market-based reforms that empower consumers to make healthcare choices in their own best interests have been sorely lacking. It’s about time that alternative solutions to what ails the healthcare system are developed and implemented by someone outside of Washington.
By moving the action on healthcare reform outside of the Beltway, these three men are sending a clear signal to the country’s legislators that a lack of progress in the face of such a serious need is not acceptable and that Washington shouldn’t hold a monopoly on reform.
While few details have been released regarding the new company, its approach will likely rest on a few key pillars: First, the large employee base of the three organizations would make it a formidable bargaining entity in areas such as prescription drug prices. Next, the technological expertise and wide market presence of Amazon in particular could lead to innovative solutions in care delivery and information sharing. Finally, the financial resources of all three organizations should play a key role in supporting the creation and testing of new healthcare business models.
Reform of the U.S. healthcare system will not be easy and it will take time. Over the past several years, our politicians in Washington have had their chance and have failed. It’s now time to let others have a shot. Given a choice between continuing with what the House and Senate call “reform” and a yet unknown, untested, and untried effort by Buffett, Bezos, and Dimon; three heads have to be better than 535.
Richard D. Kocur is an assistant professor of business at Grove City College. He specializes in marketing and business strategy and has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry.