Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon were there, of course. But few in the invitation-only crowd last Saturday at the annual Alfalfa Club gala could have guessed that the men were quietly closing in on what could be the answer to a question that divides the nation: How do we fix American health care?
Their appearance together at the Capital Hilton capped years of discussions, according to a person with knowledge of the talks. When they saw one another at social gatherings or industry conferences, the conversation inevitably steered toward their shared frustration over the impact of medical expenses on their companies’ bottom lines.
On Tuesday, Amazon.com Inc., Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced a joint venture designed to do something about the problem they’d been chewing over for so long. They took the unusual step of issuing a mission statement — use technology to fix health care for their combined 1 million workers, and possibly all Americans — before even finding someone to head the effort. That search, aided by the free publicity of the announcement itself, has just begun, the person said.
After settling on a leader and deciding where the joint venture will be based, the initial focus will be on software solutions to provide U.S. employees and their families with simple, high-quality and transparent health care at reasonable costs. Echoing a critique of Silicon Valley itself, the enterprise will be free from the need to turn a profit, the companies said.
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