Amazon, Berkshire, JPMorgan's employee health joint venture is officially winding down

Dogged by months of personnel departures, Haven announced today that it will be shutting down its operations by the end of February.
By Dave Muoio
02:36 pm
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Former Haven Dr. CEO Atul Gawande

Former Haven CEO Dr. Atul Gawande (Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Geisinger)

Haven, the high-profile joint venture from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, is officially calling it quits after a nearly three-year run.

The company had sought to leverage each of the three business' strengths to devise a new model for employee health coverage and access to care, but launched relatively few projects and shed a number of key employees near the end of its lifetime.

The news was first reported today by CNBC. Shortly after, Haven replaced its website with a statement that said the joint venture would be wrapping up its operations by the end of February.

"In the past three years, Haven explored a wide range of healthcare solutions, as well as piloted new ways to make primary care easier to access, insurance benefits simpler to understand and easier to use, and prescription drugs more affordable," the company wrote in the statement.

"Moving forward, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will leverage these insights and continue to collaborate informally to design programs tailored to address the specific needs of their own employee populations."

WHY IT MATTERS

Back in 2018, word that the three corporate juggernauts would be combining their efforts sent shockwaves through the healthcare industry – particularly among major payers like UnitedHealth Group and Anthem, which saw their share values fall immediately after the announcement. The venture's founders promised to investigate coverage challenges such as cost transparency, plan complexity and value by employing novel technologies and programs.

“Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the time in a statement about the yet-to-be-named venture. “Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.”

It took more than a year for the company to officially adopt a name, and in that time picked up heavy hitters such as the well-known surgeon, author and health policy expert Dr. Atul Gawande to steer the ship. Since then, few major products or pilot programs trickled out of the venture. Perhaps the most noteworthy announcements came in late 2019, when it launched pilot care plans for roughly 30,000 bank workers in Ohio and Arizona.

Reports from CNBC and others suggest that Haven may have been undercut by its own founders. For instance, anonymous sources said that the projects brainstormed by the collaboration were subsequently adopted and executed within each of the companies independently. CNBC also reported that many of Haven's remaining employees will be shuffled to new positions within the three companies, where that work would presumably continue.

While the joint venture and its founders were up-front about the difficulties their project would face, its pedigree and ambition had industry sources pegging the joint venture as a likely source of upheaval within the employee healthcare marketplace. It now looks like any disruption from the project will be coming from the founders alone, if at all.

THE LARGER TREND

The writing has been on the wall for Haven over the last several months. Gawande stepped down from his CEO position last May, and was later followed by COO Jack Stoddard, CTO Serkan Kutan and dozens of others both inside and outside of the C-suite.

Perhaps equally concerning for Haven were those high-profile employee health projects unveiled by its founders.

Foremost among these has been Amazon Care, a virtual primary care offering for employees announced in September 2019, launched in February 2020 and very recently revealed to be in the works for employees working at other companies as well. Using an app, employees can connect to clinicians via video calls or in-app text messaging, or connect to nearby services such as in-person visits or prescription delivery.

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