By Matt Day / The Seattle Times

The three U.S. corporate giants say their new venture will work to improve employee care and lower costs "free from profit-making incentives and constraints."

Amazon  — thought for years to be weighing an entry into health care — landed there with an unexpected splash Tuesday, revealing plans to form a joint venture with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase that’s charged with lowering the cost of caring for employees.

It is unclear what exactly they plan to build; an early-morning news release offered few details. But the scale of the companies behind the plan caught the health care industry’s attention on Tuesday.

America’s largest online retailer, its biggest bank by assets, and Buffett’s sprawling conglomerate collectively employ more than 1 million people globally. Hundreds of thousands of them are in the U.S., including more than 300,000 of the 541,900 people on Amazon’s payroll when the company disclosed its head count in October.

Buffett called the rising cost of health care “a hungry tapeworm on the American economy.”

“We share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country’s best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes,” he said in a statement.

The new entity is described as a long-term venture, and “free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” though it’s unclear if it will be incorporated as a nonprofit. An initial focus, the companies said, would be on technology that provides their U.S. employees with simplified health care at a reasonable cost.


Aaron Katz, Adjunct Principal Lecturer of Global Health and Principal Lecturer of Health Services, is quoted in this story.

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