Pharma, Venture

Atul Gawande takes aim at surging prescription drug costs as chief of cryptic Buffett-Bezos-Dimon venture now christened ‘Haven’

Early last year, when the powerful trio of Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan Chase) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) joined forces to fix the “broken” US healthcare system, the industry shuddered with a mixture of fear and anticipation. Months later, well regarded Indian-American doctor, author and renaissance man Atul Gawande entered the fold as the venture’s chief — but details on how the entity intended to reach its goal remained scant. On Wednesday, the non-profit venture was officially christened “Haven,” and its plans to disrupt the status quo were fleshed out, albeit minimally.

Haven’s motto — for the 1.2 million employees and families affiliated with Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan it serves — is somewhat utopian: to make healthcare simpler, better, and lower cost. On its newly launched website, the Haven team broadly outlined its strategy to harness the power of data and technology to cut costs and improve healthcare outcomes.

Today, if you have a regular and reliable source of care, including preventive care, and can afford your medications and treatments, you can live more than 80 years, on average, with better quality of life than ever before. The advances in modern medicine have been remarkable, but even with insurance, many Americans do not have the basics — because medical treatment and prescription drug costs are high, the system is hard to navigate, and patients don’t consistently get the right care for their needs.

The plan is to pursue “common-sense fixes” to ease access primary care; uncomplicate insurance benefits and make them simpler to use; and make prescription drugs more affordable.

“The good news is the best results are not the most complicated or expensive. The right care in the right place is often more effective and less costly than what we get today,” Gawande said in a statement.

Apart from this blueprint, the contents of the toolbox Haven intends to use to achieve its lofty goals were not specified. But its aim to reduce the cost of US healthcare, particularly soaring prescription drug prices, is one that has attracted bipartisan political and public support as patients decry skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs.

Headquartered in Boston with an office in New York, Haven is independent from its parent entities Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan. It counts Todd Combs, an investment officer of Berkshire Hathaway; Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan chief; and Beth Galetti, a senior VP at Amazon, as members of its board in addition to Gawande.

The venture has recently been embroiled in a legal tussle with UnitedHealth’s Optum unit. Optum sued a former employee to enforce a noncompete clause after Haven hired him.

Image: Atul Gawande. GETTY

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