Can Amazon Lower Healthcare Costs?

Can Amazon Lower Healthcare Costs?
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The answer to whether Amazon, in partnership with a pair of financial giants, can make healthcare more accessible and less expensive for its workers is: Apparently, it can’t.

About two years after rolling out a project known as Haven, the plug is being pulled.

The idea had been for Amazon to pool resources with the investment and banking firms Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase & Co. “to make primary care easier to access, insurance benefits simpler to understand and easier to use, and prescription drugs more affordable” for their employees. (That’s more than a million people. Amazon alone employs about 800,000 workers in the U.S.)

In remarks for Haven’s January 2018 launch, Berkshire Chief Executive Warren Buffett had high hopes. “The ballooning costs of health care act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” Buffett said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable.”

But apparently they didn’t find enough answers to keep Haven alive. According to the Journal, “Haven’s setup proved unwieldy for solving the three sprawling companies’ problems, people familiar with the matter said. Different employee bases and locations led to different priorities, and each employer’s existing health-care system required different fixes, according to one of the people.”

Amazon remains in healthcare

Amazon isn’t totally bailing out of the healthcare field. Last November, the company launched a pharmacy section on its website. Customers can use their insurance to buy their meds on the same website they use to buy books, bananas, baby oil, and everything else.

Prime members can pay cash and get a discount price on the website or at thousands of retail pharmacies. You can see those discount prices on the website, and if you provide your insurance information, you can compare that discount cost with what your insurance copay would be.

Amazon pharmacy
Screenshot via amazon.com

A quick Amazon search I made for a few MS medications — Ampyra (dalfampridine), baclofen, and Provigil (modafinil) — turned up discount prices that were similar to my Medicare Plan D copay. But searching for the disease-modifying therapy Aubagio (teriflunomide) turned up a “not found” response.

Amazon also launched a health and wellness wearable device called Halo last August. Not only does it measure and record your heart rate, temperature, and body motion, it also contains a microphone. The Halo app is supposed to be able to judge the level of your stress by the sound of your voice.

A review on the tech website ZDNet calls the wristband “creepy yet useful.” I think it might tell me more about myself than I’m interested in knowing. However, because stress can trigger MS relapses, I can see where Halo could be useful to some of us living with MS.

Are you OK with all this?

My questions to readers are the following: How comfortable are you with technology and financial companies moving into the healthcare area? Should large corporations try to provide healthcare services to their employees, as the creators of Haven had hoped they could? Would something like Haven reduce the cost and improve the availability of the healthcare you receive? Do you agree that it would help squish the healthcare “tapeworm,” as Warren Buffett hoped it would?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Diagnosed with MS at age 32 in 1980, Ed has written the “MS Wire” column for Multiple Sclerosis News Today since August 2016. He presents timely information on MS, blended with personal experiences. Before retiring from full-time work in 2012, Tobias spent more than four decades in broadcast and on-line newsrooms as a manager, reporter, and radio news anchor. He’s won several national broadcast awards. As an MS patient communicator, Ed consults with healthcare and social media companies. He’s the author of “We’re Not Drunk, We Have MS: A tool kit for people living with multiple sclerosis.” Ed and his wife split time between the Washington, D.C. suburbs and Florida’s Gulf Coast.
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Diagnosed with MS at age 32 in 1980, Ed has written the “MS Wire” column for Multiple Sclerosis News Today since August 2016. He presents timely information on MS, blended with personal experiences. Before retiring from full-time work in 2012, Tobias spent more than four decades in broadcast and on-line newsrooms as a manager, reporter, and radio news anchor. He’s won several national broadcast awards. As an MS patient communicator, Ed consults with healthcare and social media companies. He’s the author of “We’re Not Drunk, We Have MS: A tool kit for people living with multiple sclerosis.” Ed and his wife split time between the Washington, D.C. suburbs and Florida’s Gulf Coast.

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3 comments

  1. Agnes Weessies says:

    Healthcare in this country is not going to be helped by another entity becoming essentially just one more version of a health insurance company. What was needed, and still needs to be addressed is not healthcare, but the insurance industry and its erisa (sp) laws that protect them from most forms of oversight. How many people even know you essentially cant even take an insurance company to court following a 1990 law protecting them passed by Congress? Does Congress have the same insurance problems us common folk have? How many people know what healthcare was like when it was affordable without insurance? How about the cost of prescriptions before drug companies were allowed to advertise directly to people who cant diagnose themselves or write their own prescriptions. The more we force compliance, allow big business to be shielded, and to gouge prices, we will have an ever lowering quality of care verses other countries such as India! We no longer rank in the top 25 countries for healthcare…..sad.

  2. Judy Smith says:

    Tapeworm implies
    a leech, a parasite, a one-sided relationship with a winner and a loser who receives no benefits. No. Healthcare is an integral, essential component of any civilized society, with cost and benefits to both patients AND providers! And, no, I don’t trust a big-tech outfit with healthcare any more than with vehicle design and operation. Tech is driven by overwhelmingly young males with extremely narrow life experience who live for the short term (start-up and sell out, go back to my tiny apartment where I live alone and play games in a dark room).

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