In 2018, Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett set out to satiate the “hungry tapeworm” of rising healthcare costs plaguing the U.S. economy, partnering with Amazon and JPMorgan to create Haven. The joint venture was hailed as a major disruptor that had the size, scope and financial backing to solve all that ails U.S. healthcare—and that’s exactly where it went wrong.
After three years, the joint venture shuttered, with experts saying Haven tried to do too much, with too many people. Here are five things we can learn from the organization’s efforts:
1. Collaboration is key. When Haven was first announced, three outsiders said they planned to disrupt the entire healthcare ecosystem. Executives may have lost patience with the difficulty and slow pace of reforming the notoriously baggage-heavy industry, which could explain the high levels of personnel turnover Haven experienced before its demise. When thinking through how to structure employee benefits, companies should build on previous successes, seek insight from existing organizations and experts and partner with other companies to build market power through purchasing coalitions.
2. Identify project owners to keep you accountable. When structuring employee benefits, don’t count on a single visionary to dictate your entire organization’s strategy. Engage the entire C-suite around cost cutting and strategic benefits initiatives, and make sure that the chief financial officer, chief medical officer and HR leaders have seats at the planning table. Once a strategy has been defined, make sure that responsibilities are clearly defined and distributed to keep the company on track toward achieving its goals.
3. Stay focused. Haven was charged with identifying and coordinating care needs across three large companies in different geographies, industries and with different employee populations. All of these factors could have made it hard to pinpoint a single strategy. When structuring employee benefits, organizations should identify their individual employee wants and needs, create a single offering and then scale their findings to other businesses from there, if they see fit.
4. Deploy digital tools. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that, for some forms of care delivery, consumers prefer meeting with providers virtually. The hot investment market has also fueled more startups, offering more solutions than ever before. Think strategically about what services can be digitized—which often result in cost savings—and which need to be in-person, and structure your offerings accordingly. A key part of the conversation should be how digital tools can be used to scale care across multiple markets.
5. Talk to the feds. CMS literally and figuratively sets the standards for the healthcare industry. Private insurers often follow the lead of Medicare—including pilots from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation—when thinking about new benefits. Employers should engage policymakers and contribute research as officials create new payment and delivery models, with the aim of using federal resources to improve care delivery for all.