Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Amazon Prime members will be able to access US healthcare provider One Medical’s suite of benefits, for a fee, as the ecommerce company looks to expand its presence in the $4tn American healthcare industry.
Prime members in the US who opt in will have access to unlimited, on-demand virtual healthcare via One Medical, the subscription-based group that Amazon acquired last year for $3.9bn. They will also be able to schedule in-person appointments that they will either pay for themselves or that will be covered by insurance.
The addition to Amazon’s flagship Prime membership programme comes as the company looks to “stack” healthcare services together and broaden its reach in the sector, which would be “big for us if we do a good job”, said Neil Lindsay, senior vice-president of Amazon Health.
The subscription will cost Amazon Prime members $9 per month or $99 per year, compared with the standard One Medical subscription fee of $199 per year. That will come on top of the $139 per year, or $14.99 a month, price for a Prime subscription.
The move is Amazon’s latest effort to leverage its loyal base of Prime members and become a big player in the healthcare industry. In January, following its 2018 acquisition of mail-order pharmacy PillPack for about $1bn, Amazon launched RxPass, which allows Prime members to order an unlimited amount of some unbranded prescription medications for $5 a month.
It has also rolled out a “Clinic” telehealth service that connects patients with clinicians and a broader mail-order pharmacy service.
However, analysts said disrupting the convoluted US healthcare system would require Amazon to go beyond its core customer-focused mission, given how it is dominated by business-to-business relationships involving employers and insurers.
“For over a decade, Amazon has been trying to figure out who they want to be in healthcare,” said George Hill, a healthcare analyst at Deutsche Bank. “Until Amazon wants to move to being a ‘B2B’ healthcare company, they will not be able to access the vast majority of spending in the US.”
In one sign that Amazon is expanding beyond the retail space, however, health plan provider Blue Shield of California announced in August that Amazon Pharmacy would start dispensing some prescription medications to its members.
Lindsay would not be drawn on what the new One Medical benefit would mean for sign-ups to or the economics of Prime — which is central to Amazon’s retail business, driving sales while also acting as a marketing tool.
He described Amazon as “stacking” healthcare services together and said that the creation in the longer term of a broader, online healthcare marketplace was “clearly a potential approach”.
“I’m hesitant to say this is exactly the form it will take,” he said, but added that in widening its healthcare offering Amazon did not “have to do it all ourselves . . . We’re pretty good at connecting the dots.”