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What rough beast have Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan created?


The New York Times reports that the three megacorporations are “disrupting health care” with a new collaborative venture, though the details are scarce. All we know is that the program, at this stage, will be for their employees and nobody else. From the Times:

The three companies provided few details about the new entity, other than saying it would initially focus on technology to provide simplified, high-quality health care for their employees and their families, and at a reasonable cost. They said the initiative, which is in the early planning stages, would be a long-term effort “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”


“The health care system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, said in a statement. “Hard as it might be, reducing health care’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.”

While technology can feasibly improve health care around the margins, the basic problem of health care is a political one: shifting resources from one area of the economy to another. One way to reduce health care’s burden on the economy, for example, would be for wealthy billionaires like Bezos and Warren Buffett to pay more taxes into a system designed to provide everyone with good health insurance. That possibility is dismayingly absent from the statements released today.

And if these companies were able to come up with a new, more affordable model, would it be available to workers who don’t work for Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berskshire Hathaway? Or will it ultimately make affordable health care dependent on which corporation you work for?