Amazon, Berkshire, JPMorgan Team Up for Cheaper Employee Healthcare

(Reuters) -
This combination of photos from left shows Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, JP Morgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. (AP Photos)

Amazon.com Inc, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase & Co are forming a venture aimed at lowering healthcare costs for their U.S. employees, they said on Tuesday, sparking a slide in the shares of a host of healthcare-related companies.

The three companies said they will create an independent firm “free from profit-making incentives and constraints” that will initially focus on technology solutions to provide employees and their families with healthcare “at a reasonable cost.”

Drugstore operators CVS Health Corp and Walgreen Boots Alliance as well as pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts Holding Co dropped between 4.5 percent to 6 percent in premarket trading.

Drug distributors Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson were all down nearly 3 percent. Health insurers also fell, with UnitedHealth’s 6.2 percent drop the steepest.

The move comes amid growing speculation that Amazon is likely to enter the prescription drug business and that has sent tremors through the pharmaceutical supply chain.

The plan, currently in early stages, will be spearheaded by Berkshire investment officer Todd Combs, JPMorgan managing director Marvelle Berchtold and Amazon senior vice president Beth Galetti.

“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” said Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO, Warren Buffett. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable.”