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Amazon’s Coitus Interruptus: In or out?

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

Meanwhile, it’s time for Matthew’s tidbits and of course given their recent news-making I am going to focus on Amazon in health care. The news is of course that they are in health care in a big way, buying One Medical. The news is also of course is that they are out–shutting down Amazon Care.

This reminds me of the famous criticism delivered in the British parliament by one MP about another back the last time (in the 1970s) there was a vote about leaving the EU. “The Honourable gentleman can’t make up his mind. First he’s in, then he’s out. In, out. In, out. This is the politics of coitus interruptus.” After a moment a voice from the backbenches shouted “Withdraw.”

So is Amazon in or out?

They are out of their 4 year effort to build a hybrid telehealth-to-home medical group that helps mainstream employers manage their costs. This is despite stating their intent just a few months back to add new clinics and this year adding a decent number of employer clients including Hilton hotels–before that they only really had a few of their own employees as clients. Interestingly enough, it was the development of this platform that convinced Amazon that they didn’t need Haven–their alliance with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway which was developing a similar offering.

They are in to the business of One Medical to the tune of a $3Bn acquisition as well as putting in $300m extra cash so far, and likely a lot more later. Like Amazon Care, One Medical has a hybrid telehealth and clinic approach (though no home visits as yet). When Amazon said they were killing Amazon Care, they suggested that a lack of employer uptake was the biggest problem. One Medical does have employer clients. But these aren’t mainstream low or medium wage employers to whom they are delivering capitated care at a worksite. In One Medical terms that means an employer pays their employees’ $200 per member annual fee, after which the employee can see a One Medical doctor. And curiously enough by far their biggest employer client is Google.

One Medical says that they lower overall costs for their employer clients, but to use another British political line, “they would say that wouldn’t they.” In reality One Medical does very little specialty or hospital care management, and via its relationships with local high-priced health systems is able to charge insurers very high prices for primary care which they seem to actually pay! (And yes I have lots of personal experience here..). Putting aside the fact that One Medical somehow is contriving to still lose loads of money–a big reason why it put itself up for sale–it is not an organization trying to manage costs for employers in value-based care arrangements, unlike say Firefly Health or even Crossover Health (of which Amazon is a big client for its lower paid workers).

You’ll notice that I am conveniently ignoring the Iora Health part of One Medical which they inexplicably bought last year. Iora focuses on capitated services for Medicare Advantage plans, and it is trying to manage costs. Though given the amount it’s losing, that effort isn’t going so well either.

It’s possible that Amazon is going to surprise us and try to turn Iora + One Medical into a capitated giant to work with and steal the margin of the big Medicare Advantage plans. Then later, move that strategy into mainstream employers.

But if they were going to try that it would probably have been easier and more culturally aligned to merge Iora with Amazon Care. My suspicion is that Amazon means what it says and is finding it too hard to manage costs for employers. My guess is it will jettison Iora, keep using Crossover and others to manage costs for its own lower-paid employees, and try to turn One Medical into a Whole Foods-like national brand for the cost- unconscious top 25% of Americans….and somehow make it profitable.

If they manage that it would be great for Amazon’s business. But it would be very disappointing for those of us hoping that Amazon was going to have a serious go at providing a low-cost, innovative service that was trying to lower overall health care costs for employers and make a serious dent in the market power of America’s high priced, under-delivering hospital systems.

THCB Gang Episode 102, Thursday August 25

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) for the 100th #THCBGang on Thursday August 4 are Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune (@JeanLucNeptune); Queen of all employer benefits Jennifer Benz (@jenbenz); Special guest this week is Olympic rower for 2 countries and all around dynamo Jennifer Goldsack, (@GoldsackJen), and Ryan Vega, CIO of Veterans Affairs.

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

THCB Gang Episode 101, Thursday August 18, 1pm PT- 4pm ET

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) for the 101st #THCBGang on Thursday August 18 are medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee); patient safety expert and all around wit Michael Millenson (@mlmillenson); delivery & platform expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis); THCB regular writer and ponderer of odd juxtapositions Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard);

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

THCB Gang Episode 100, Thursday August 4

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) for the 100th #THCBGang on Thursday August 4 were Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune (@JeanLucNeptune); Consumer advocate & CEO of AdaRose, Lygeia Ricciardi (@Lygeia);  and the Light Collective’s Andrea Downing (@bravebosom). Sadly fierce patient activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey) had a Mets party flare up and couldn’t join at the last minute. There was a lot of chat about data and privacy, and even some ideas about what a future where patients data flowed but patients rights were respected might look like!

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

THCB Gang Episode 99, Thursday July 28

This was a special early in the day edition of #THCBGang. It was at 9.15am PT/ 12.15 pm ET (so if you are coming at 1pm it won’t be live today at the normal time as it’s already happened!). It was part of the Primary Care Transformation Summit which has been running since Monday and continues to the end of Friday. It’s a who’s who of everyone in primary care. You can check out the wider agenda but we were on immediately before the day 3 keynote from head of CMS Innovation, Liz Fowler.

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) to discuss primary care and more were are WTF Health host & Health IT girl Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa); futurist Jeff Goldsmith; & Dan O’Neill (@dp_oneill) who is now at primary care group Pine Park Health.

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Matthew’s health care tidbits: Texas is the present future of abortion care

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

In this edition’s tidbits, I have to return to the stunning impact of the Dobbs ruling. We know will happen because it is already happening in Texas where the 6 week law was already being enforced in contravention of Roe v Wade.

Taxpayer money is going to “pregnancy crisis centers” that flat out lie to vulnerable patients about the impact of abortions on their health. Doctors are questioning women who have miscarried–at a moment that is already terrible for them, and women who have miscarried are being denied basic D&Cs–which can kill them.

Don’t get me started on the absolute nonsense being talked–and passed into law –about ectopic pregnancies, of which there are over 130,000 each year in the US, being carried to term. How unlikely is it that an ectopic pregnancy makes it to term with no ill effects? Let me tell you a story. My dad was an OBGYN. He and his anesthetist saved the life of a woman and her baby who somehow had made it to term while being ectopic. During the surgery she needed 12 pints of blood (a normal woman has 7-8 pints in her body) and he considered it the greatest piece of surgery he did in his entire career. He thought that he and the patients were very lucky. So I demand that crazy legislation saying ectopic pregnancies have to be carried to term also mandates that my dad is around to do every single C-Section. Unlikely, as he’s dead, but no crazier than the legislation in Indiana.

Then there’s the impact on telehealth. Most abortions are done using drugs but more and more of the pandemic-era exemptions to prescribing drugs and seeing patients over telehealth across state lines are being withdrawn. Clearly the state-based licensing of doctors is itself ridiculous in an age of online commerce, but despite the DOJ statements the legality of prescribing abortifacients across state lines is very unclear and, as Deven McGraw explained in this harrowing piece on THCB Gang, HIPAA doesn’t protect patient privacy from local law enforcement. So what happens to someone in a state where abortion is banned if they have to go to hospital because of a complication from taking an abortifacient? Trump thinks they should go to jail.

What is clear is that bans on abortion don’t stop abortions. But they do endanger women. And if the pregnancy crisis center stops a woman from getting an abortion, do they help afterwards? Why yes, if you mean by “helping”, they have a celebratory dinner and light a fricking candle.

THCB Gang Episode 97, Thursday June 30

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday June 30 were THCB regular writer and ponderer of odd juxtapositions Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard); Principal of Worksite Health Advisors Brian Klepper (@bklepper1); futurists Ian Morrison (@seccurve); and fierce patient activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey). Lots of discussion of the Dobbs ruling and also of the CAA regulations which have gotten somewhat less play in the press. Quite the impassioned discussion !

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

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