Jan 23, 2019

Optum sues employee who left for Amazon's health care venture

Little is known about the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan health care project. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Optum is suing an executive who left the company to work for the new health care venture created by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase. The lawsuit, first reported by STAT, alleges that his new employment "poses a direct threat to Optum’s trade secrets and other confidential information."

Why it matters: It's been a year since the three conglomerates promised to "disrupt" the health care industry with their venture. And the only thing we really know about it now is that Optum — the profitable and growing division of UnitedHealth Group that provides health care, data services and pharmacy benefits — views it as a competitor.

Details: Optum really doesn't want its former employee to work for this "ABC" venture, as it's been called.

  • The ABC company, which is supposed to be a nonprofit and is led by Atul Gawande, is currently registered as "TCORP62018 LLC."
  • The former Optum employee, David Smith, made $200,000 a year plus stock as a vice president of product strategy. The company accused him of printing materials with Optum's trade secrets and attending confidential meetings right before he resigned.
  • The top lawyers for UnitedHealth and ABC corresponded with each other over Smith's new employment. UnitedHealth wrote in a letter that Smith's "inappropriate conduct" could violate state and federal trade secrets laws.
  • ABC has not explicitly said what it will do. However, according to the lawsuit, Smith said his "initial tasks will be in-depth research focused on the delivery and costs of health care for the over 1 million individuals covered by the health plans of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase" — indicating the venture will not be nearly as big or disruptive as some have made it out to be.

Go deeper: Read the lawsuit.

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

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The backdrop: In their first meeting in December 2018, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury put on a memorable show at Staples Center, with Fury surviving a brutal right hand in the 12th round to earn a split-decision draw.

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What they're saying: James Clapper, the longest-serving DNI (2010-2017), tells Axios it's "very worrisome installing a partisan with no real intelligence experience in this position."

Coronavirus kills 2 Diamond Princess passengers as Israel confirms first case

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. U.S. numbers include Americans extracted from Princess Cruise ship.

Two elderly Diamond Princess passengers have been killed by the novel coronavirus — the first deaths confirmed among the more than 600 infected aboard the cruise ship — as Israel confirmed its first case among evacuees from the ship.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 76,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 118 new deaths since Thursday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health