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Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase make major move into US employee health care

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | January 30, 2018
Business Affairs

To date there have been no announcements about more detailed plans, such as location of the company's headquarters or other management details.

“It could be big,” Segal Group's Ed Kaplan, who cuts health care deals for large employers, told The New York Times. “Those are three big players, and I think if they get into health care insurance or the health care coverage space they are going to make a big impact.”

The move comes on the heels of other mega health care deals.

In December, 2017, for example, CVS Health, the largest pharmacy health care provider in the U.S., agreed to acquire Aetna.

Aetna chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini reassured members at the time that the deal “will have no immediate effect on your benefits,” adding that, “we will use CVS Health’s footprint of more than 9,700 retail stores and 1,100 in-store clinics to establish entirely new community health hubs dedicated to improving consumer well-being and answering questions about health, prescription drugs and health care benefits.”

While the deal will clearly get regulatory scrutiny, noted Bertolini to Bloomberg, it will also allow a vertical integration that some say is a response to fears surrounding Amazon's potential to disrupt the market.

“We think of it as creating a new front door to health care in America,” said CVS Health’s chief executive, Larry J. Merlo, according to the The New York Times.

Aetna stated that the deal would fill “an unmet need" in the current health care system “increasing numbers of consumers are taking on more and more responsibility for paying for their health care as the burden of costs is being shifted to them,” according to the company.

The move comes after a search for deals across many sectors of health care by the retail drug chain in an effort to squeeze profits out of combinations of varied businesses in the fast-changing health care landscape.

CVS had also reached out to Anthem about a sale, and UnitedHealth Group as well, unnamed sources told the Wall Street Journal.

At that time, noted Bloomberg, Amazon was reported to have gotten pharmacy-wholesaler licenses in a dozen states. “Size and scale-wise, they can disrupt anywhere they want to disrupt,” noted Chip Davis, president of the Association for Accessible Medicines.

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