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Out of the gate, the new health care venture from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase seems to be headed in the right direction — using new technology to provide their employees better value and health outcomes. That’s where things will start, but this could be a laboratory for a more sweeping transformation.

The big picture: To bring lower costs and better care to their employees and others, these companies will need to do more than deploy a modern technology overlay. They will have to better align payments and outcomes in health care across the board. If they accelerate this process, we will all benefit.

The problems: Our health care system is afraid of new technology, partially because of outdated ideas about how to pay for care that are layered into government programs. Consider the example of Type 1 diabetes — a chronic condition that affects more than 1.2 million Americans.

  • New technology called continuous glucose monitoring, or CGM, uses a digital sensor to monitor patients’ blood-sugar levels throughout the day, without requiring them to draw blood.
  • CGM is even more effective when it pairs with analytic algorithms and a smartphone. Patients can share readings with a doctor in real time, or automatically alert loved ones in the case of an emergency. These are precisely the kind of technologies a company like Amazon should know how to leverage.
  • Because of old and often inflexible rules, Medicare won’t have anything to do with CGM if a smartphone is involved. The government doesn’t want to be in the business of paying for smartphones.
  • Private coverage has moved in the right direction on these challenges, but some patients worry — for legitimate reasons — about whether their plans will fully cover their costs.

But it’s not just about paying for new technology. We also need to pay for new expertise and approaches to care.

  • Right now, most of our health care system pays doctors for what they do, not what they achieve. Instead, payments should be based on long-term outcomes and factor in overlooked but critical parts of a doctor’s job, like time spent helping their patients learn to use these new technologies.

The bottom line: Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan are deep-pocketed companies whose executives have a track record of discovering value. But their leverage and creativity will only bring about widespread change if they address fundamental payment and regulatory issues that govern American healthcare.

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Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.