The move suggests that Amazon is moving along with Amazon Care — its on-demand health service that has at-home care aspirations — quicker than what may have been expected. “Amazon operates like dog years in reverse,” Robin Gaster, an Amazon expert, recently told Home Health Care News. “One human year is seven dog years, right? Well, one human year is seven Amazon years too. They move quickly.”
Gaster is the author of the book “Behemoth, Amazon Rising: Power and Seduction in the Age of Amazon.” He is also a visiting scholar at George Washington University, an expert on business innovation and the president of the data consulting company Incumetrics. Amazon Care is also a founding member of Moving Health Home, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition that advocates for more favorable legislation for home-based care.
Amazon Care works through a mobile app, offering video, text and sometimes in-person visits — even in the home. The fitness manufacturer Precor is among the employers using the service, and others have been rumored. CVS Health and other insurers — reportedly some Blue Cross affiliates — have not bitten on the offer to pay for Amazon Care yet. Why they did not is still not totally clear.
Amazon announced in March that it was expanding Amazon Care from just its employees in Washington to the entire country. Months later, it announced it would be expanding mental health services to nearly a million workers, and that it was dipping its toes into diagnostics and pharmaceuticals as well. Amazon’s journey with Amazon Care is not unusual for the company. The process is such: roll out the program to a select group of its own employees, widen the market and then eventually apply its usage to the general public.
But what is clear is why Amazon is approaching them in the first place. Health insurers, especially the large ones like Aetna, have a lot of power in health care. Aetna has nearly 24 million members on its own. “The report is largely undefined. It doesn’t say anything about a partnership, so no strategic insight,” Gaster told HHCN, referring to the Business Insider report. “Does that mean it wants to charge more than Aetna wants to pay, that there is something weird about the way it wants to charge? Amazon traditionally operates with a positive cash cycle, but to be honest, I don’t think that’s it.”
Accessing that amount of people, or even a portion of them, would put Amazon Care in an entirely different stratosphere than it is now, where it has access to mostly just its workforce — which still represents nearly a million people in the U.S. alone. It also seems that Amazon has caught onto the trends, as it’s wont to do. Not only is it focused on the home, but it also reportedly tried to enter into “value-based” arrangements with the insurers, according to Business Insider. “What does ‘in its efforts to expand coverage’ mean?” Gaster said. “What coverage and whose? If it’s just Amazon offering prescription delivery services, then this is simply Amazon seeking to build out its delivery business in health care.”
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