Health insurers support CEO pick to head Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan venture

Selection of Atul Gawande, MD, to lead the new healthcare firm will advance innovation and change, says AHIP’s Matt Eyles.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, the national trade association representing insurers, gave its support for the selection of Atul Gawande, MD, as the chief executive officer to lead a new healthcare venture started by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase.

“To Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, here’s what we say—bring it on,” Matt Eyles, president and CEO of AHIP, told Wednesday’s opening session of its annual conference held in San Diego. “We are welcoming new voices that challenge us to think differently about healthcare.”

In addition, he said AHIP welcomes the input of “new players” who come from companies outside of the medical industry. “I want more smart people solving challenges in healthcare, not fewer.”

AHIP’s Eyles made the comments after the three companies earlier in the day announced the appointment of Gawande, a prominent surgeon, writer, and public health innovator, as CEO to take the helm of the initiative aimed at improving healthcare for their more than a million combined U.S. employees.

Also See: Surgeon tapped to head up Amazon, Berkshire, Chase health venture

“Innovation, change and disruption” are positively impacting healthcare, which is “taking new pathways” to improve care delivery, Eyles told the conference. As the industry moves from fee-for-service to value-based payment, stakeholders must “embrace” disruption and uncertainty, he said.

Eyles made the case that there is a “sense of urgency” for “innovation and change,” which is accelerating in the healthcare market. Patient-centered care offering more choices for consumers is at the heart of these efforts to transform medicine, which will require new business models, he added.

“Continuing to do things in a certain way because they’ve always been done that way” is a dying mindset in healthcare, Eyles contends. “We must embrace new philosophies and approaches.”

Toward that end, the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan venture will “operate as an independent entity that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” according to the companies’ announcement.

“I’m thrilled to be named CEO of this healthcare initiative,” said Gawande in a written statement. “I have devoted my public health career to building scalable solutions for better healthcare delivery that are saving lives, reducing suffering and eliminating wasteful spending both in the U.S. and across the world. Now, I have the backing of these remarkable organizations to pursue this mission with even greater impact for more than a million people, and in doing so incubate better models of care for all. This work will take time, but must be done. The system is broken, and better is possible.”

Gawande, who will start as CEO on July 9 for the new Boston-based firm, is slated to speak on Thursday at AHIP’s conference—a general session speaking engagement that was previously scheduled. He will talk about the reframing of end of life care. Gawande is the author of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, a book that addresses hospice care and the current state of care with regard to age-related frailty, illness and death.

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