In an unexpected move, online retail giant Amazon has linked up with banking group JPMorgan Chase and multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway to form a new healthcare company for their U.S. employees. Stating in a joint press release that their aim is to improve employee satisfaction and reduce costs, they say they will “pursue this objective through an independent company that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.” While they claim they hope to take a “fresh approach” to healthcare, any of their employees seeking corporate-funded access to approaches based on nutritional and Cellular Medicine seem likely to be disappointed.
To the casual observer, the heads of the three companies involved would appear to have correctly identified at least some of the problems associated with the current American approach to healthcare. Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO, Warren Buffett, for example, admits that “the ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy.” But as the world’s third richest person who has, at the time of writing, a net worth of $92 billion, Buffett owns a very sizeable share of that economy and would ultimately obtain even higher financial returns from his vast shareholdings if corporate healthcare costs could be cut.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is an expert in cutting costs to increase revenues. Currently the world’s richest person with a net worth of $120 billion, it was reported last year that workers at one of his flagship warehouses in the UK were taking home less than the meagre national minimum wage. But this was hardly the first time Bezos had been accused of underpaying his employees. In 2016, Amazon was accused of creating “intolerable working conditions” after allegations emerged that workers in Scotland had been penalized for taking sick days. In desperation, to save money commuting to work, some staff were said to have been camping near one of the company’s warehouses. Faced with similarly low incomes, Amazon workers in Germany and Italy have resorted to strike action as a means of drawing attention to their demands for dignified salaries. So when Bezos talks in the joint press release about “reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families,” his employees can certainly be forgiven for feeling skeptical.
Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, states that his staff want “transparency, knowledge and control when it comes to managing their healthcare.” But while he proudly boasts about the “extraordinary resources” that he, Buffet and Bezos have at their disposal, he predictably makes no mention of the $264 million settlement JPMorgan Chase reached in 2016 with American federal prosecutors and regulators over a vast bribery scheme in China. Nor either is any mention made of the $875 million lawsuit recently filed against the bank by the government of Nigeria, alleging it had facilitated financial transfers on behalf of a corrupt former government minister. With JPMorgan Chase already seen by some as America’s most corrupt bank, its employees will no doubt be hoping that the healthcare solutions Dimon implements for them will be subject to a far greater degree of transparency, knowledge and control than the actions cited in these cases.
The new healthcare company’s initial formation will be jointly spearheaded by Marvelle Sullivan Berchtold, a Managing Director of JPMorgan Chase who formerly had a senior role at pharmaceutical giant Novartis and served as a board member at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare; former hedge fund manager Todd Combs, an investment officer of Berkshire Hathaway who is also a director at JPMorgan Chase; and Beth Galetti, a Senior Vice President at Amazon. Given these backgrounds, whatever form of healthcare the trio of firms eventually come up with, you can bet your bottom dollar that drugs and orthodox medicine approaches will play a central role.