Three companies that we all know, love, and trust—Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase—have decided that they will band together to create some sort of independent healthcare company for their employees.
Announced on Tuesday, the venture is extremely vague. A press release described a new company that would be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints” and focused on “technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.”
Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest man, said in a statement, “The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty. Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.” Because there’s nothing more comforting than the idea of a beginner’s mind—perhaps one like Bezos’—meddling with one’s healthcare.
Let’s take a look back at how much Bezos cares about the health of his employees. In 2011, the Morning Call reported on warehouse employees working in temperatures as high as 114 degrees. Amazon had paramedics parked in ambulances outside warehouses “ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress.” And then there is the grueling pace those employees must work on the warehouse floor. HuffPost reported in 2015 on one former supervisor describing the conditions by saying, “We tried to be very, very upfront. ... I said, ‘You are going to hurt after the first week. ... You are going to crawl into bed and pray you can get out in the morning.’” This supervisor worked at the same warehouse where an employee died on the floor. Even the white-collar workers at Amazon go through hell for Bezos.
There are also implications for people far beyond the workers at these companies—first, because anything they do has a ripple effect on wider society, and secondly, because they are telling us that this is just the beginning. Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, said that “the three of our companies have extraordinary resources, and our goal is to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans.” Just three gigantic private companies coming together to fix our public health crisis. Nothing to worry about at all.