JPMorgan tests its Amazon-Berkshire health venture on bank employees

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(Bloomberg) – JPMorgan Chase and Amazon have begun testing the new healthcare venture they’re developing with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, rolling out some of the new offerings to employees in a handful of states.

Under the program, called Haven Healthcare, JPMorgan is offering its 30,000 workers in Ohio and Arizona two plans for 2020 run by Cigna and Aetna, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing non-public information. The group comprises just under 20% of the bank’s U.S. workforce.

Amazon is offering health plans for employees in Connecticut, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin that were created by Amazon in consultation with Haven and insurance providers, said a representative for the tech and online retail giant.

The efforts at both companies appear to be early steps in the venture’s goal of overhauling healthcare benefits to make them more transparent, better at keeping people healthy and lowering costs. JPMorgan, Amazon and Berkshire founded Boston-based Haven in 2018, but details about the effort have been scant. Headed by physician and writer Atul Gawande, the venture has been run in secrecy with almost no sign of what it might do.

At JPMorgan, Haven is planning to monitor employees’ receptiveness to the new offering and whether they find it more transparent, one of the people said. At Amazon, where some employees are already enrolled, the goal is to help employees better understand their health costs and to work better with primary-care doctors.

Joe Evangelisti, a JPMorgan spokesman, confirmed plans to roll out the program to bank employees in the two states. A representative for Berkshire didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Unlike the existing insurance plan for JPMorgan’s U.S. employees, the new Haven programs don’t require employees to pay deductibles. They offer perks like earning money each month by fulfilling certain wellness activities such as keeping blood pressure below a certain target, said one of the people. That money can be used to offset doctor visits or the cost of prescriptions. Such benefits and incentives aren’t unusual in the corporate world.

JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon has long railed against the U.S. health-care system, saying shortcomings like soaring costs, bureaucracy, fraud and a lack of transparency around the price of medical procedures are impeding the U.S. economy.

In May, he said a team of about 40 people was analyzing the three companies’ insurance plans, wellness offerings and pharmacy benefit management deals to identify ways to improve healthcare outcomes for its employees. He has said better aligning incentives and empowering employees to make better choices could help.

Under Haven plans for the JPMorgan employees, co-pays range from $15 to $110 for most services, according to one of the people. Some more expensive care, such as a hospitalization, comes with higher charges.

Gawande became well known for a series of articles in the New Yorker magazine exploring why health-care costs varied significantly from place to place in the U.S. On Haven’s website, he says their work will take time and the organization will “be relentless.” The mission is to “deliver simplified, high-quality, and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.”

High healthcare expenses are a major focus for workers and employers. Work-based family health-insurance premiums topped a record $20,000 in a 2019 survey of employers conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. On average, workers’ average annual contribution was $6,000 for a family plan.

The Haven venture has also raised fears among health insurers, drug makers and other parts of the industry that JPMorgan, Amazon and Berkshire would use their collective power to disrupt established players.

“This is not meant to be a profit-seeking thing,” Dimon said at a conference in May. “It was meant to be a improved healthcare thing, stronger employees. We hope we’ll have something we can share with the world.”