Haven's Story Reflects How Difficult Changing Healthcare Can Be


Screenshot from CNBC broadcast, January 4, 2021

Remember the buzz 3 years ago when Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire-Hathaway announced a joint venture to re-invent employer-sponsored healthcare?

Like many people, I thought Haven Healthcare’s plan was aimed at all the right things—improved access to services, simpler insurance benefits and more affordable prescription drugs. If anyone could forge a new way, I figured Haven had the ideas and resources to pull it off.

Why didn’t it work out?

I don’t pretend to know, but at some point Haven no doubt discovered just how difficult it really is to alter our entrenched healthcare system.

Consider the independent but connected interests of providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies and intermediaries, not to mention all the suppliers and supply chains that support them. Overhauling or operating outside the established parameters is a tough task, even when three of the world’s biggest companies commit to it.

Maybe it’s too complex for any one entity to tackle. Maybe it’s too hard to change all at once, even for one employer population (or in Haven’s case, three). Could be that change can only happen in one space at a time. Because any innovation in healthcare requires having access to the right data. No one can get it all at once.

As I’m sure any healthcare solution vendor can relate, Rx Savings Solutions had to start small. You make a dent. You build on it. You prove the solution’s value to a mutual client—like an employer or health plan—to the extent you integrate and become interdependent with established players.

That’s not to say Haven wasn’t in the process of doing that. I know from experience it doesn’t happen overnight, and maybe 3 years wasn’t long enough. But I applaud them for the ideas and the initiative. I hope the three companies will each implement the pilot programs Haven developed, as their announcement indicated. And I hope a similar initiative backed by Microsoft, Walmart and Lowes will be successful.

I’ll always believe innovation is more effective than regulation or legislated reform. It’s easier to change the system from within, especially one as byzantine as American healthcare. If the success of Rx Savings Solutions is any indication, the most effective change is driven by empowered, informed consumers. Because no one cares more about the cost of healthcare than the people who need it.