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Why Even Bezos-Buffett-Dimon Dream Team Couldn’t Fix Health Care: Viewpoint

2021-01-08 12:56:27
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It would be hard to think of a better team than the world's richest man, one of the best bankers and the most valued investor of our time to solve such a massive problem as the US healthcare system . And yet even Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett couldn't find the answer together.

Haven, the joint venture formed by Bezos & # 39; Amazon.com Inc., Dimons JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Buffett & # 39; s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is shutting down after just three years. It was formed as a platform to discover ways to reduce the rising costs and frustrating complexity of the healthcare system, with an initial focus on its own combined workforce of approximately 1 million. The dissolution of the Haven Accord marks the sweeping challenge that haunts business leaders and politicians alike, as healthcare in general and the flaws of the US system have been pushed to the fore during an unprecedented global pandemic.

What started with pre-mask industry run-ins like informal conversations between the three powerful men, in which they complained about the increasing medical costs of corporate profits, evolved into a formal partnership in January 2018. With such high profile names and deep pockets behind it, Haven's arrival drew a lot of interest and fanfare – and among healthcare giants, fear – even if its mission statement was admittedly vague, conveying a sense of over-ambition for three non-healthcare companies. With little known or ever made public about the company's progress since its inception, its reversal may not be such a surprise. In May 2019, an outspoken Buffett said in a television interview that Haven "had no guarantee of success" and that he expected his mission to be "Godlessly difficult;" a year later, Haven CEO Atul Gawande stepped aside to focus on the Covid-19 crisis in the more symbolic role of chairman.

Leadership may have a lot to do with why Haven never really took off. To come up with new solutions for an industry as large and complex as healthcare, ideally requires in-depth knowledge of insurance companies, administrative bureaucracy and a full-time focus. Gawande, the firm's largest recruit – a renowned surgeon, Harvard professor, and writer – didn't quite tick those boxes, no matter how impressive his resume is.

When Gawande was appointed CEO of Haven in June 2018, Bloomberg Opinion columnist Max Nisen noted that while the doctor was undoubtedly successful, the doctor lacked experience or background. when managing large organizations. When Gawande assumed the role, he went on to say that he would not resign from his professorship, medical and other responsibilities, noting the limited nature of his commitment. Before he quit his job, The Wall Street Journal reported that Gawande wanted to do less daily management.

Meanwhile, the companies behind Haven began taking on their own internal projects, leaving less utility for the CNBC joint venture reported Monday, citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter. Amazon recently announced Amazon pharmacy, a flex of the ecommerce company's logistical weight and the expansion of the Prime ecosystem. Less and less the descriptors "tech" and "e-commerce" describe Amazon accurately; at least they minimize the disruption it causes in many industries – retail, supermarkets, shipping and now medicine. Haven never lived up to its hype, however.

That leaves the question: If some of the best entrepreneurial and investing minds couldn't fix healthcare, who could? A crisis calls.

About Tara Lachapelle, Bloomberg believes

Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist on entertainment and telecommunications as well as broader deals. She previously wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.

About Tae Kim, Bloomberg Opinion

Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist on technology. He previously covered technology for Barron & # 39; s, after a previous career as an equity analyst

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