A Once-Feared Health-Insurance Joint Venture Is Losing Its High-Profile CEO – Barron’s

A Once-Feared Health-Insurance Joint Venture Is Losing Its High-Profile CEO  Barron’s

Haven Healthcare CEO Atul Gawande.

Photograph by Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Geisinger Health System

When Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, and JPMorgan Chase announced the creation of a joint foray into health insurance two years ago, managed-care companies quaked. The S&P 500 Managed Health Care Industry Index dropped 4.4% in a single day on the news.

Now, few are quaking over the joint venture, called Haven Healthcare, a black box that emits only news of top-level staffing shake-ups.

The latest came Friday, when The Wall Street Journal reported that Dr. Atul Gawande, the surgeon, author, Harvard University professor, and New Yorker writer, was in “advanced discussions” to relinquish his role as Haven’s CEO.

Haven didn’t respond to a request for comment from Barron’s about the report. The Journal reported that Gawande would remain Haven’s chairman.

The departure comes a year after Haven’s chief operating officer, Jack Stoddard, a former Comcast executive, left the organization, citing the commute to Haven headquarters in Boston from his home in Philadelphia.

When announced in early 2018, Haven appeared set to be the next 800-pound gorilla in the health-care space—a collaboration by three of the giants of American capitalism. The goal was to starve the “hungry tapeworm of the American economy,” as Berkshire Hathaway (ticker: BRK.A) CEO Warren Buffett called rising health-care costs in a press release at the time.

Investors speculated that Haven might take on pharmacy-benefit managers, or perhaps even strike directly at the major insurers’ commercial businesses. Details were thin, and worry ran high. Two years later, it is still unclear what the joint venture plans to do, or whether it poses a threat to insurers. Haven has been silent about its activities, and leaks have been infrequent.

One tantalizing hint came in November, when Bloomberg reported that Haven was offering health plans to 30,000 JPMorgan Chase (JPM) workers. The plans would be run by Cigna (CI) and CVS Health (CVS) subsidiary Aetna, and, unlike other plans offered to JPMorgan employees, would have no deductibles. They would also have incentives for workers who hit certain wellness targets.

Bloomberg reported at the time that some Amazon (AMZN) workers were also being offered plans developed by Haven.

According to Friday’s Journal report, Haven is now seeking a new CEO. The S&P 500 Managed Health Care index was up 0.4% Monday morning. The broader S&P 500 was down 0.6%.

Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at josh.nathan-kazis@barrons.com

Source: barrons.com

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