Insurance benefits, primary care and pharmacy costs will be at the center of the healthcare joint venture between Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal based on testimony unsealed on Wednesday.
In the testimony, the venture’s chief operating officer Jack Stoddard clarified the company’s ambitions. Stoddard was in court defending the hiring of David Smith, who is being sued by UnitedHealth’s Optum group for stealing trade secrets.
The venture, nicknamed “ABC” in the lawsuit, has mostly kept silent about its plans since launching in January 2018. Led by Dr. Atul Gawande, it initially aims to reduce costs and improve care for the more than 1.2 million workers employed by the three companies. The companies have said the venture won’t seek a profit.
Here’s what we know based on Stoddard’s testimony.
- Health benefits: The venture is looking into whether it can “reinvent what insurance looks like in terms of benefit design,” Stoddard said, adding that coverage is often a point of confusion for employees.
- Primary care: Stoddard said a goal was to boost primary care and encourage physicians to spend “more time, not less time” with patients.
- Pharmacy costs: The venture wants to bring down drug spending, but said it wouldn’t compete with pharmacy-benefit managers. “But we will look and say, could we contract with one of them to get more transparency?” Stoddard said. Amazon’s acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack last year raised a number of questions around what the joint venture might do in the pharmacy space. Stoddard said the company wouldn’t compete directly with Optum, which operates a large pharmacy benefit manager as well as many other health services.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf unsealed the testimony after siding with a motion brought by Dow Jones, the Journal’s publisher, and the Boston Globe. Judge Wolf has not yet ruled on Optum’s request for a restraining order that would prevent David Smith from working for the joint venture.
A spokesperson from the venture did not immediately respond to a request for comment. GeekWire will update this story if we hear more.