Will Amazon Deliver a Single-Payer Health Care System for the U.S.?


Amazon has quietly put together a syndicate including Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan to provide better and more affordable health care for their combined 1.2 million workers. 

The joint effort, called Haven, makes sense because many companies of size today are self-insured to provide health care at lower costs. But this is different. Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett seem to be personally involved in the development of Haven. So, what could they possibility have up their sleeves?

At the same time, many Democrats running for president are promising single payer health care (Medicare For All) as the solution to controlling costs and providing quality health care for everyone. Republicans argue that this is socialism and will result in unacceptable increases in taxes that will ruin our economy.

While politicians debate, Amazon’s real objective may be to create a health care payer to rival all payers with tens of millions of Amazon Prime Members as health plan members.

With Amazon’s buying power, scale and capabilities, the ecommerce giant could create a health payer offering that could render the need for a single payer system moot.

The company’s buying power and clout representing tens of millions of members allows them to negotiate the lowest prices on the planet for drugs and medical treatment. Who knows…maybe Amazon will build its own drug manufacturing labs. 

And with their fulfillment and shipping capabilities, they could deliver prescriptions to your door (maybe by drone) almost immediately, eliminating the need to ever visit a pharmacy again.

With their rapidly evolving tech platform including Alexa and health monitoring devices, they could monitor health conditions and contact providers before medical emergencies occur.

What’s more, Amazon could take telemedicine and concierge medicine to another level with connectivity to providers anytime, anywhere, without the red tape that makes health care so difficult to access today. And they might even buy large health care systems and shake them up by eliminating red tape while dramatically improving access to quality care.

Lastly, let’s not forget Amazon’s ability to harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver better, smarter, more efficient health care without ever talking to a doctor.

Bernie Sanders may be right when he argues that access to quality health care is a basic human right. But given all the roadblocks, lobbying and politics blocking the way to a government single payor system, it just may be delivered by Jeff Bezos rather than Uncle Sam.

Joe Grace is partner with Chief Outsiders, the nation’s leading fractional CMO firm focused on mid-size company growth. More info at www.chiefoutsiders.com.

3 replies »

  1. “The company’s buying power and clout representing tens of millions of members allows them to negotiate the lowest prices on the planet for drugs and medical treatment. ”
    Too much consolidation combined with secrecy in pricing (insurers and hospital systems are aligned to protect secrecy) lead to collusion to stop competition. Amazon may well be big enough to disrupt….greatly helped by the Administration executive order for transparency. Transparency will result in public opinion turning on the high charging hospital systems.

  2. If Amazon hasn’t significantly improved the results of Whole Foods since it purchased it a couple of years ago, I don’t see it making healthcare better and less expensive either. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, was asked about this joint venture by CNBC’s Becky Quick the Monday after Berkshire Hathaway’s most recent annual meeting. Buffett’s answer was basically that it was too early to tell and he had no idea whether it would ultimately work out or not despite recruiting the surgeon / writer, Atul Gwande, to run it.

    While Amazon is making a lot of money from its cloud offering, Amazon Web Services (AWS), it retail platform offering to third part resellers and its Amazon Prime subscription fees, it doesn’t seem to be making much money from selling actual merchandise from its own inventory and its own warehouses. Count me skeptical.

  3. Will Amazon pay it’s workers a living wage? Not likely, as with healthcare. I gave up Prime when shortly after Trump’s corporate tax giveaway Prime went from $99 to $120, with no wage increase for Amazon workers that I could find.