Since the divisive passage of Obamacare, healthcare reform has often been seen as a new 3rd rail of American politics. It’s often discussed, but rarely acted on, even though it routinely ranks among the top concerns for American voters. As a candidate, President Trump said he had a plan to replace Obamacare with a new program that would expand choice and lower costs, but it never materialized; and since taking office, he says he’s been working hard to lower the cost of health insurance, but it’s still rising. Now, three of the biggest companies in America are banding together, hoping to lower prices for treatment and prescription drugs in what could be a major disruption to the current system.
It’s called “Haven” – a new company founded by a consortium consisting of internet giant Amazon, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, and Wall Street icon J.P. Morgan. The corporate heavyweights pooling their resources to help lower the cost of healthcare for its 1.2 million combined workers. For now, it won’t provide healthcare or health insurance directly. Instead, “Haven” will focus on using existing technology to improve access to affordable treatment and prescription drugs, partly by helping consumers become aware of the choices available to them.
But eventually the company is expected to morph into a quasi-provider, negotiating directly with drugmakers, doctors, and hospitals, while also working with existing insurance companies. Market analyst Michael Newshel says that could eventually lead to a huge disruption of the status quo, potentially forcing traditional insurers to expand choice and lower prices, because the three companies are “talking about selecting vendors, not going out with an external competitive offering right away, but, this will still be happening down the line,” according to Newshel.
Most advocacy groups -are applauding the launch of “Haven” as a much-needed disruption to an inefficient system. Advocates for seniors and retirement groups say a new model for healthcare delivery could specifically benefit their members by making the selection process easier to understand – and more affordable.
Most also say it needs to be paired with stronger regulation to protect the most vulnerable Americans, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon. Congress has been largely inactive on the issue, and President Trump’s 2020 budget proposal calls for fresh cuts to Medicaid, and – of course – the repeal of Obamacare.