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The problems: Our health care system is afraid of new technology, partially because of outdated ideas about how to pay for care that are layered into government programs.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.

Go deeper

How "naked ballots" could upend mail-in voting in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered state officials last week to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner "secrecy" envelope in November's election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: The decision went under the radar alongside the simultaneous decision to extend the time that mail-in ballots could be counted, but Philadelphia's top elections official warned state legislators this week that throwing out so-called "naked ballots" could bring "electoral chaos" to the state and cause "tens of thousands of votes" to be thrown out — potentially tipping the presidential election.

Commission releases topics for first presidential debate

Moderator Chris Wallace. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has selected what topics he'll cover while moderating the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden next week.

What to watch: Topics for the Sept. 29 debate will include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, economic policy, racism and the integrity of the election, the Commission for Presidential Debates announced on Tuesday. Each topic will receive 15 minutes of conversation and will be presented in no particular order.

Fed chair warns economy will feel the weight of expired stimulus

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday that the expiration of Congress' coronavirus stimulus will weigh on the U.S. economy.

Why it matters: Powell warned that the effects of dried-up benefits are a looming risk to the economy, even if the consequences aren't yet visible.

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