Haven disbands, ending speculation on what innovation at such a scale could do

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett was one of the founders of Haven, which is calling it quits after a 3-year run. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Haven, the healthcare company formed three years ago by finance and tech giants Amazon, Berkshire-Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, will end its independent operations at the end of February, according to a statement from the company.

The disbanding ends speculation as to what an innovative healthcare delivery system, driven by an Amazon-like experience, would look like at scale, starting with insurance coverage for thousands of its combined company employees.

“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,” Haven said by 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. Haven will end its independent operations at the end of February 2021.”

Haven began informing employees Monday that it would shut down by the end of next month, according to CNBC. Many of the Boston-based firm’s 57 workers are expected to be placed at Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway or JPMorgan Chase, sources told CNBC.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT

When formed in January 2018, the joint venture was expected to upend the healthcare industry. 

But despite the company’s high profile and deep pockets, nothing really emerged from the collaboration except for a few pilot programs, such as one announced in November 2019 and offered to about 30,000 JP Morgan Chase employees in Ohio and Arizona. Under the program, the workers would have the choice of two health plans for 2020, to be run by Cigna and Aetna.

Last May, doubt about the success of the joint venture increased after company CEO Atul Gawande, a surgeon, Harvard professor, author and New Yorker writer who was hired in July 2018, stepped down.

Haven also hired such high-profile employees as former Comcast and Optum executive Jack Stoddard, as chief operating officer.

When it was created, Haven founders Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said the company was created to have better outcomes and take cost out of the healthcare system. Moving forward, each business will leverage the insights gained in their own employee populations, Haven said in its statement on closing.
 
THE LARGER TREND

Healthcare, and specifically its cost, has been a large part of the political debate this past year as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. 

The failure of such a large, innovative effort as Haven may show just how challenging upending the current healthcare system can be.

ON THE RECORD

“A real possibility is that the entrenched complexity of the American healthcare business model proved too daunting to change,” said Lyndean Brick, president and CEO of healthcare consulting firm Advis. “As large as these parent organizations are, they still don’t possess the economies of scale to tip the balance when it comes to healthcare. Moreover, no reported efforts at joint contracting or procedural integration were ever announced by Haven. Those deals would have been key markers of Haven’s success and there are none to point to. They never got ahead of the industry as a leading voice for change.”

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com

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