Saturday, February 3, 2018

Who's waiting on Jeff and Warren?

            Earlier this week, Amazon, Warren Buffet and JPMorgan Chase & Co. made waves by announcing plans to disrupt the health industry by creating their own insurance company and lowering healthcare costs in the process. The ramifications were immediate. Many of the industry's traditional big players(UnitedHealth, CVS, Cigna) saw their stock sink.

            All told, news of the new effort alone cost healthcare stalwarts nearly $70 billion in stock value. And, while it wouldn't be surprising to see share prices in these traditional players rise again over time, the 'Amazon effect' on the industry is undeniable. Amazon has transformed industry after industry -- and by combining forces with the Guru of Omaha and one of the world's leading financial services firms, Jeff Bezos is certainly to be reckoned with.

            But-- don't hold your breath. Not only have we not learned quite when the new healthcare outfit is set to launch, we also don't know many more details other than its coming existence. What shape the company takes remains to be seen.

            Will Amazon & friends be content leveraging their size to negotiate lower rates on prescriptions? Are we talking about a new payer, akin to traditional insurers like Humana?

            Or is this a new paradigm altogether? Nobody knows!

            In the meantime, while we wait for news to trickle out in its usual fashion, a few start-ups are already addressing the questions of access and availability head-on. Of course, they lack the scale of the soon-to-be Amazon company. Instead, they are focusing on particular aspects of the system that have caused costs to rise, putting care out of reach for many American consumers.

            For instance, Blink Health is tackling the absurd cost of prescription drugs for the insured and uninsured with an easy-to-use app and online interface, bringing prices lower and increasing transparency across the board. Aledade is using AI to help PCPs get back to what they do best -- practicing -- by helping them tackle regulatory issues, patient data and more. Flatiron Health has developed a platform that connects doctors, payers, patients and more to make treating cancer more effective, better and cheaper.

            So, should we be excited about Amazon and their entrance into healthcare? Of course! But there's no one pill that will cure our healthcare ills. The start-up scene is full of exciting, innovative new companies intelligently fighting back against the high costs making us sick.

Mental Health's Moment