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Amazon Transformed Retail. Can It Transform Health Care Too?

Online retail giant announces new health care partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan-Chase.

Abaca Press/Van Tine Dennis/Abaca/Sipa USA/NewscomAbaca Press/Van Tine Dennis/Abaca/Sipa USA/NewscomAs I read the news this morning that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and J.P. Morgan-Chase were launching a health care venture aimed at reducing costs for their employees, I couldn't help but think of my recent Amazon order history.

Since the start of 2018, my household has ordered the following items from Amazon: a jar of truffle honey, a dough hook attachment for a Kitchenaid stand mixer, a 34 pound bag of "weight management" formula dog food, two packs of stainless steel drinking straws, a cast-iron commercial citrus juicer, two men's t-shirts, a wallet, a 12-pack of paper towels, a warm winter beanie, two pairs of earbuds, a copy of the video game Wasteland 2, and nearly a dozen books, mostly novels, including the entire Wrinkle in Time quintet in a box set.

This is a pretty weird, eclectic list, even to me, and I bought most of the stuff. Yet it's also fairly typical for any given month at my home. And it's suggestive of both the strange sort of bounty that the online store offers—a bounty that many of us now effectively take for granted—and our near-comprehensive reliance on it for practically every category of purchase.

We don't actually buy everything from Amazon. But sometimes it feels like we do. Or at the very least, like we could.

And all of these items were, of course, delivered directly to my doorstep. Some of them—the dog food, the paper towels—I didn't even have to order, because Amazon delivers them on a schedule, as part of a subscription. Regular trips around town to purchase basics were a fixture of the first twenty five years or so of my life. But over the last decade or so, I have all but given up on the idea of commerce as an exchange, located in a particular place, that requires me to venture out of my house. When I do go to stores now — there are a few local record shops that I like to browse — it's almost always as a leisure activity rather than a necessity. This is almost entirely the result of years of increasing reliance on Amazon. It has ingrained in me the idea that stores as I used to think of them are simply unnecessary.

There are other ways that Amazon has infiltrated and altered my daily life as well: The Echo, a tube-shaped digital assistant with a speaker, makes a great music player for the kitchen, since you control it with your voice. Amazon's in-house streaming video service is competitive with Netflix (and, importantly, unlike Netflix, it has every episode of Batman: The Animated Series). On occasion, I've used Amazon to order dinner from local restaurants.

Amazon has limitations, of course. Its deliveries are sometimes delayed or lost. Its recommendation technology doesn't always work. This morning, for example, it tried to recommend a set of cat-face measuring cups. I don't like cats, and I have plenty of measuring tools already. But it has a consistent track record of making my life more pleasant and more convenient, of making irritating transactions easier and less irritating.

My point with all this is not merely to ruminate on how much Amazon has changed the way I and millions of others go about doing all sorts of everyday tasks for the better, though of course it has.

Instead, it is to highlight how thoroughly Amazon has transformed my conception of what it means to interact with the retail economy, and my expectations about how buying almost anything should work. It is not just a better experience than I had twenty years ago, but a fundamentally different one—and one that I wouldn't have expected or predicted.

So of course when Amazon announces that it will be entering the health care sector along with two other wealthy corporations, I'm more than a little bit interested. I'm interested even though there are, so far, scant details about what the venture will do, or what it is. There's no specific business plan being discussed or particular technology being deployed. It's not clear if the intent is to start something like an insurer, or a provider billing group, or a network of new care centers, or something else entirely.

"The health care system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty," Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said in a statement. "Hard as it might be, reducing health care's burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner's mind, and a long-term orientation."

My guess is that even Bezos and his partners don't know precisely what they're creating yet. Today's announcement represents a commitment of financial and human resources, in hopes of building something worthwhile in the long run.

AmazonAmazonAs Bezos says, this won't be easy. Even still, I wonder if he understands just how difficult a project like this is likely to be. Tech companies have chased health care business for nearly long as the tech industry has existed, yet few have succeeded. Purchasing agreements between large employers have been tried before. Delivering affordable, high-quality health care is in part a business problem involving the application of money, systems management, and technology. But it's also a legal challenge that involves dealing with a web of regulations, as well complex individual human behaviors that can be maddeningly difficult to understand or influence. Pricing in health care is frustratingly opaque, due in large but not exclusive part to the influence of government payment systems. Without clear market price signals, it can be difficult to find efficiencies or savings.

Adding to the difficulty is that in health care, the consequences for failure can be much higher than in, say, online shoe and book delivery, which leads to both higher costs and a lower overall tolerance for risk. At a minimum, health care is perceived as categorically different from other sectors of the economy, and allowing for that perception will be necessary for any project to succeed.

All the same, I'm intrigued and even cautiously hopeful, because many of the problems with health care are problems with the way it is provided now, with the legacy systems and cost structures and rules and regulations that have grown up over decades. Too often we think of health care as essentially a government project, with expansions and innovations coming from regulations and tax incentives, which is fair, in some sense, given government's influence over the financing and delivery of care.

What the U.S. health care system needs most is not to do the same thing it's doing now, just a little better or more efficiently, with government at the center. It needs a systematic transformation in both form and expectations, one that, over time, we can simply take for granted. And while I recognize that whatever it is that Amazon and its partners are attempting will be difficult, and that it might just end in whatever the health care equivalent of a cat-face measuring-spoon recommendation is, my hope is that this new venture can serve as a test bed for that sort of change.

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  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    Will that economic stable genius, the p...y-grabbing Racial Expert Trump, be against that?

  • timbo||

    he does not like regulation so he will probably be for some reform.

  • impartial observer||

    "Will that economic stable genius"

    Can you please post in English? Thanks.

  • hello.||

    Stupid Mexican has trouble with English. On the plus side he's also retarded in his nature pidgin spanish.

  • Sevo||

    "Will that economic stable genius, the p...y-grabbing Racial Expert Trump"
    OM, you used to be rational; sorry, but you need help.

  • Whorton||

    I get the feeling you don't like Donald Trump, OM. . . But then, I've no doubt you supported HRC and her corruption wholesale. Perhaps you should look to see what such policies have done for Mexico and it's economy.

  • Azathoth!!||

    See, that's just it--OM didn't support Hillary.

    He supports most of Trump's positions........he just really hated that remark Trump made about how Mexico's not sending it's best to us as illegal immigrants. The line about murderers and rapists broke something in his head.

    In fact, most of the writers and commenters here support a whole lot of Trump's actions--they just hate that it was Trump that did them.

  • Reardon||

    100% agree: "It needs a systematic transformation in both form and expectations, one that, over time, we can simply take for granted."
    Talk about a cultural divide. HC has a different culture surrounding it then other consumer products and services. No posting of prices, no asking what they are. One finds out the price when the statement from insurance is received such as $17k for a CAT scan. But we shop around or bitch when the price of gasoline goes up 10 cents.

  • Nihil||

    But we shop around or bitch when the price of gasoline goes up 10 cents.

    I'll never understand that. My grandparents used to drive across town to save $0.01 on a gallon of gas.

    However, when I ask my doctor what a procedure is going to cost he either looks at me like I'm retarded or shrugs and says I don't have to worry about because I have good insurance.

  • Sevo||

    "I'll never understand that."

    Harry Truman, post WWII was terrified of ending price and wage controls; he'd be blamed for the price corrections, and as a slimy politico, he was more than willing to stiff the population.
    We got medical insurance 'provided by the employer' as one of the ways companies could in effect, offer higher pay.
    Costs were then paid by a third party, and poof! Prices became irrelevant to the consumer; see "insurance" providing berth control, for example

  • impartial observer||

    Ships matter.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Fun fact: SS Robert E. Peary Liberty Ship was built in 4 Days 15 Hours 29 Minutes.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Technically, much of the employer offered healthcare started before WWII when companies needed to comply with workers compensation liabilities because of government Depression era controls. The WWII came along with government controls on wages. Kaiser had huge government contracts to build ships. The loophole was company offered healthcare.

    Kaiser Permanente was one of the first companies to have their own health centers.

  • Juice||

    When I have asked that question I would get, "Depends on your insurance."

    "No, what do YOU charge?"

    "Depends on your insurance."

    "No! What is the PRICE that YOU charge someone for this procedure?"

    "UGH! IT DEPENDS ON YOUR INSURANCE!"

    "Oh, uh, ok, I think I see."

  • Longtobefree||

    The Doctor almost certainly does NOT know what is charged for his services. His practice has signed many contracts with many insurance companies setting 'reimbursement rates' for services. Probably even the bookkeeper and lawyer do not know. This is half of the reason healthcare and healthcare insurance have suffered excessive price inflation.
    No individual shops for health care because you cannot, as described above.
    Likewise, very few people shop for their own health insurance. Most take whatever is offered by their employer, who 'shopped' based on what is best for the company, not any one employee. The rest 'shop' by selecting the least offensive policy set by federal mandate on exchanges.
    Without accurate prices, there cannot be true price comparison shopping by individuals to keep down the costs of healthcare of healthcare insurance. No one shopping on their own will by coverage that cannot apply to them, yet the feds mandate post-menopausal women buy policies with maternity coverage, and coverage for prostate exams; how will there ever be downward price pressure from that?
    Step one will have to be eliminating employer selected health insurance, so it will never happen.

  • Fairbanks||

    Good points about the doctors not knowing the price. But most doctors know (or should) that many people are on high-deductible plans, yet I get the "why in the world are you asking?" reaction whenever I ask a doctor what something is going to cost. And I'm not talking about life-saving procedures. I got it last week when I asked the cost of toe cushions, which are readily available at pharmacies. I learned this lesson the hard way when I had a broken toe and the doctor wrapped it to an adjacent toe. I was charged $60 for that "procedure." Silly me for not asking for the cost because I thought it would be part of the office visit fee.

  • hello.||

    Tons of people get their health care on a cash basis mostly from walk-in urgent care clinics and know exactly what everything costs. Morons who spend thousands of dollars every month on shit from Amazon and think 300 bucks a year is a good deal for "free" shipping probably wouldn't be very good at price shopping even if they didn't have Cadillac insurance plans.

  • ThomasD||

    Prices for things not generally covered by government and/or insurance are freely available, and surprisingly competitive.

    Consider that male to female surgery transition surgery will run about $15-20k. Which, when you consider what is involved (urology, cosmetics, etc.) is laughably low as compared to rates charged for insured types of surgery involving similar procedures.

  • Jujucat||

    Good point, TD.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Amazon Transformed Retail. Can It Transform Health Care Too?

    No, because retail is nowhere near as regulated as healthcare is at every level of government.

  • Curt||

    Yeah. I want to be optimistic here. But, Amazon became The-All-Powerful-AMAZON!!!! by revolutionizing book sales and then expanding that to many other parts of retail. But if you added up all the regulations that apply to every different thing that gets sold through Amazon, it still wouldn't even come close to the regulations on healthcare.

  • Microaggressor||

    I'm guessing the only reason this idea left the ground is because they figured out a way to work around the regulated insurance industry. They mentioned that this is for their employees. Wasn't Trump talking about carving out workarounds to the regulated industry with things like mutual aid societies? So the proles can finally afford health care? That's probably what this is about.

    The faster we can work around the health insurance industry to deliver health care the better off we will be in every way, so that's why I'm optimistic about these efforts.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I mean, I guess if Amazon thinks they're going to build an end-to-end healthcare system which includes the insurance system, the clinics and the hospitals, maybe he can do something that will be... 'cheaper'. But his employees won't live in an Amazon box. They're going to get sick and get in a non-amazon ER, and their insurance will have to work there.

    If Amazon 'becomes' an insurance company, they'll be subject to all the regulations all insurance companies exist in-- coverage mandates, rate controls etc. Any healthcare facility he builds will be subject to JHACO, HIPAA and half a dozen others I won't bother to mention.

    I just don't see it.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    IN addition, that job by itself would probably require two or three 'ceos'. He still has to run Amazon-- not sure how it'll be structured, but I can see this burning hundreds of billions without making or saving a dime.

  • Whorton||

    The problem is healthcare CEO's are a dime a dozen, and less than 0.001% of any of them are worth their salt.

  • gah87||

    New York State does not allow my company - or any "small" company of less than 100 employees - self insure. It's for our own good of course, to protect us from potential liability... amusing coming from a state that has billions in unfunded employee medical liabilities. But I digress. The real reason we cannot self insure is that the medical insurance lobby has prevented it. Enter The Amazon Chase Hathaway Insurance Co. Health insurance stocks are down 7-10% today just on the news. Good. Break the government-sponsored cartel. Then drive a stake through its heart.

  • ThomasD||

    This. The silver lining is that should this prove to be the rock on which Amazon founders it just might spur people to change.

  • timbo||

    I would rather not see three of the biggest cronyists of all time spearheading fixes.
    Buffet made more money off of the bailout of Bank of American than any other private citizen. Also, the sole reason he kissed Obama's ass was to thwart the keystone pipeline so his then recent acquisition of NBNSF railroad co could continue to rail crude and supplies to the Bakken Shale.
    Bezos receives the single largest subsidy the government gives out. Amazon gets to take advantage of the USPS guaranteed rates for certain size packages no matter the distance. Since most of his packages are smaller then a certain size, he in effect gets free delivery over any considerable distance vs what a for profit company would have to charge. He is smart to do so but it is horseshit. Also, Amazon does not even turn a profit. It uses all other cash to expand and to buyout competition. Wondering when that comes home to roost. But for now, let him lose money while he makes our lives easier.
    Dimon and JP Morgan is of course one of the biggest benefactors of the bailouts under Obama and bush. Cronyist of the highest order.

  • Nihil||

    Amazon gets to take advantage of the USPS guaranteed rates for certain size packages no matter the distance. Since most of his packages are smaller then a certain size, he in effect gets free delivery over any considerable distance vs what a for profit company would have to charge. He is smart to do so but it is horseshit.

    May be horseshit, but it's horseshit available to all of Amazon's competitors as well.


    Also, Amazon does not even turn a profit.

    Amazon posted an annual profit of $600 million in 2015, and $2.3 billion in 2016.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Two day delivery is really popular. Especially around the holidays.

    Amazon lost a lot of money on trying to make their own tv shows trying to keep up with Netflix. On the other hand, Amazon has a bunch of cash.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Well, this will definitely be a sure-fire way to wipe those profits off the books.

  • timbo||

    Look at the history of amazon's quarterly results. The amount of profitable quarters vs massive losing quarters is shocking. That is their business model and that's fine. People want the stock.
    The point was that running your business that way opens up to a lot of volatility and on a down market might amount to some monumental losses.

  • dk12345||

    I'm so sick of the giant circle jerk around Amazon.

  • timbo||

    Agreed but watching this shit is fascinating. Crazy though the only 4 stocks are driving this insane stock market bubble.

    All of the earnings and valuation increases are coming almost exclusively from Apple, Google, Amazon, and Netflix.

    Now that is a volatile bubble.

    Amazon is more dynamic than the rest of the Faangs for sure because it is providing tangible value to consumers.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Crazy though the only 4 stocks are driving this insane stock market ""

    Funny thing about that. All 4 are supported in part with money from the 99%ers, that claimed they were against the 1%.

    They say they hate the 1%ers but love giving them their money.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Amazon has a lot of pluses but yeah its too much an infatuation.

    Its like the iArmy that attacks you anytime you say anything bad about Apple products. Well they used to anyway. Apple products have gone downhill, so maybe even the iDrones aren't so determined anymore.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I think any infatuation with a company is weird and creepy. They are not there for our benefit. They are there to make money. That benefiting us is a great way to achieve that is nice. But they're not our friends, and we should owe them no allegiance beyond our agreed upon deals.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Lefties have come to expect a certain level of charity from companies. Amazon even donates the rounded off portion of your purchase to charity of your choice.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I always crack up with charity being collected from companies because of that South Park episode.

    Randy has to put his foot on the mouth of the child to get his change from his purchase. Hilarious.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I think any infatuation with a company is weird and creepy

    Now you know why I stopped watching TED Talks. Too many CEOs of 'startups' acting like their idea to superimpose a mustache on a selfie will change the world, feed the poor and bring democracy to the third world.

    All while wearing a head mic and talking like they 'see beyond'.

  • Mcgoo95||

    The only TED talk worth watching..
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdHK_r9RXTc

  • widget||

    Since the start of 2018, my household has ordered the following items from Amazon: a jar of truffle honey, a dough hook attachment for a Kitchenaid stand mixer, a 34 pound bag of "weight management" formula dog food, two packs of stainless steel drinking straws, a cast-iron commercial citrus juicer, two men's t-shirts, a wallet, a 12-pack of paper towels, a warm winter beanie, two pairs of earbuds, a copy of the video game Wasteland 2, and nearly a dozen books, mostly novels, including the entire Wrinkle in Time quintet in a box set.

    I've had both a personal and business account with Amazon. I've been hitting Amazon for at least $10k a year for while now. I wish Jeff Bezos wasn't such an asshole though.

    Did he improve the Washington Post? What's up with giving DACA kids (with an average age in their mid 20's) a college scholarship? Hey now, go to college, find out it's worthless, and drive a delivery truck for me.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    College is a magic elixir that will make everyone attending successful.

  • Whorton||

    At being unsuccessful. . .

  • hello.||

    Worked when we gave them all no-doc loans for half million dollar houses on a migrant farm workers salary.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    When Walmart opened their vision centers, it changed my expensive and annoying optometry appointments into something only slightly more difficult than grocery shopping. The cost of getting glasses dropped by about 60% and the convenience was orders of magnitudes better than my former visits to the optometrist.

    When Walmart opened their health clinics I hoped for a similar revolutionary experience but was sadly disappointed. As DR(P) said up there, the regulations make the difference.

    I don't think they can make much of a positive impact. Given the players, I'm worried they'll find a way to sell government health care in trade for their own benefit.

  • Whorton||

    Walmart health clinics. . . Lol. . I had forgotten about them as the micro lessees towards the front of the building change more frequently than the products Walmart stocks.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    There are a lot of behind the scenes stuff that are making Amazon worse.

    Bezos always wants the customers and potential customers to not see this. Amazon fees for sellers continually goes up which gets passed to customers. Plus, there is a lot of theft at various levels of the distribution chain. A lot. The USPS, FedEx, and UPS are barely able to keep up during Oct-Jan holiday season.

    I am hopeful for Amazon to keep other companies competitive but I dont want Amazon to ever have any of my health records, if they get into healthcare.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    BTW: Amazon really pushed to collect sales tax for the states. Amazon fought the requirement at first but then jumped to collect it and the system is widely inaccurate. The money sits in their bank account working for Amazon until its paid to states.

  • Sevo||

    Amazon really had no choice once they set up regional distribution, and there's nothing there which is specific to Amazon.
    Other web and B&M retailers have the same problems/opportunities.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    They could tell state government's "no".

    States could take the tax burden off companies and put it where it belongs- on citizens of that state.

  • Sevo||

    loveconstitution1789|1.30.18 @ 3:39PM|#
    "They could tell state government's "no".
    States could take the tax burden off companies and put it where it belongs- on citizens of that state."

    Get back to me when you have something to say about Amazon, not those voices in your head.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I know its wishful thinking mainly because its established policy now.

  • Crymoricus||

    So businesses shouldn't pay taxes?

    WTF??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA

  • Juice||

    They're behaving like Wal Mart. They put constant pressure on sellers and suppliers to drive costs down. That's generally a good thing, but quality and variety tends to take a hit. Also, lately Amazon will not have the best prices and the shipping costs are baked into and hidden within the Prime price anyway. You can sometimes find an item cheaper somewhere else, even with shipping costs. Doesn't matter much to Amazon if you do that. You'll buy a lot of other stuff from them, and if you're a Prime customer, they've already got your $99 for the year.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    a copy of the video game Wasteland 2

    Excellent tastes, Suderman. Check out Divinity 2 if you get the chance as well.

  • Jujucat||

    Wasteland 2, the Divinity series, and Pillars of Eternity are all great.

  • Jujucat||

    Pillars of Eternity needs to be added to that list.

  • Jujucat||

    Oh no I posted twice... noooooo!!!!

  • Sevo||

    "Amazon Transformed Retail. Can It Transform Health Care Too?"

    You'll have to find out if the AMA, the nurses unions, the insurance companies and the various state and fed medical welfare agencies will tolerate having their powers undercut.

  • ThomasD||

    High quality health care is like a bespoke suit.

    There can be no economy of scale.

  • ThomasD||

    Health care can be commoditized, that all people have been trying to do.

    And they have largely succeeded in accomplishing just that.

    Step 1. Commoditize Healthcare
    Step 2. ??????
    Step 3. Increase Quality and/or reduce costs

    The Sudermans of the world persist.

  • Rhywun||

    The big drawback for me and Amazon is that I have had enough packages stolen to be wary of the process. I use it maybe once every couple months.

    I don't like cats

    Literally worse than Hitler.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I would blame your neighbors, not Amazon.

  • Rhywun||

    I'm not blaming Amazon, just giving another side to the idea of home-delivering everything that everyone is gushing about.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • Whorton||

    SOMEONE has to pay for all those stolen and missing packages. . .

    And the price ticks up. . .

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    However in my case, I blame the USPS, because they mis-deliver mail to me about 4 times a week. I've got my own little personal mail delivery system now. The mail dude just sort of drops letters and mail in random places around the neighborhood and I guess the residents sort it out themselves. Not sure if it's the same way where you live.

    It's so bad, I sometimes wonder if maybe he can't read.

  • Rhywun||

    No, I live in an apartment building where, apparently, my neighbors occasionally feel like helping themselves to other people's deliveries. With a security camera pointing right at them. (Rumor has it the camera doesn't work.)

  • Greg F||

    In my rural area the postal workers are great. On occasion my wife has put a letter to send out in the mailbox with the wrong or no postage. The postman covers the postage and leaves a hand written note how much we were short. We put the amount short in the mailbox with a thank you note.

  • Juice||

    Since the start of 2018, my household has ordered the following items from Amazon: a jar of truffle honey, a dough hook attachment for a Kitchenaid stand mixer, a 34 pound bag of "weight management" formula dog food, two packs of stainless steel drinking straws, a cast-iron commercial citrus juicer, two men's t-shirts, a wallet, a 12-pack of paper towels, a warm winter beanie, two pairs of earbuds, a copy of the video game Wasteland 2, and nearly a dozen books, mostly novels, including the entire Wrinkle in Time quintet in a box set.

    Wow. Now that is some All American consumption!

  • JeremyR||

    I doubt it. Amazons works by treating its workers like crap and taking advantage that mail delivery is heavily subsidized by the government

    You can't really do that to doctors, unless they are here on a visa.

  • Juice||

    Oh, you can subsidize the shit out of doctors. They're ok with it.

    And, FYI, doctors from other countries are not allowed to practice in the US.

  • Longtobefree||

    Which may explain why you cannot get your meds anymore?

    A brief slog through the 'participating members' list of any medicare plan lists more 'foreign' doctors (those having degrees from institutions outside the US) than 'American' (those having degrees from US institutions). As a side note, most group practices now list over four languages available.

    And so far, the service and treatment is about the same from either group. That is, indifferent, and following the federal 'guidelines' to the letter.

  • hello.||

    And, FYI, doctors from other countries are not allowed to practice in the US.

    150% wrong. They have to get licensed in the US first is all. You can ask my current doctor, who graduated from Maulana Azad Medical College in Delhi India. Or my previous doctor, who graduated from Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai India. There are less than a handful of US doctors where I live.

  • blondrealist||

    I have an Amazon Prime membership - so I think I should be able to sign up for the Amazon health insurance plan and get the same group rate.

  • Rockabilly||

    I just ordered a Naughty Nurse to take my temperature . Thanks

    https://tinyurl.com/y9a7gqmt

  • DrZ||

    Hopefully Mr. Bezos will come to understand that the problem is directly related to the fact that the consumer of medicine, the patient, has no say in the pricing of medicine via the free market.

    As long as the consumer is the odd man out, prices will reflect what a third party wants them to be and there will always be conflict.

    Online price listing and online ratings ratings of hospitals, doctors and procedures will do more to control costs than anything Mr. Bezos will ever be able to do to control costs and it will also give the consumer what they want at the prices they are willing to pay.

    Health Savings Accounts and true catastrophic insurance are a good place to start. It's time to get rid of the idea that someone else pays the first dollar.

  • Lawn Darts||

    Agreed. We need to separate catastrophic "insurance" from pre-paid health care plans. They should be purchased separately.

  • Lawn Darts||

    "I'm intrigued and even cautiously hopeful, because many of the problems with health care are problems with the way it is provided now, with the legacy systems and cost structures and rules and regulations that have grown up over decades."

    Yeah, beginning with the idiotic legacy system that the IRS created and the Democrats mandated: that the entire healthcare industry be designed only for people who have employers. The rest of us are completely screwed if we work for ourselves. How did we reach a point where a single person is not able to make a viable, affordable healthcare contract with a consenting provider of healthcare? Boo Hoo for Amazon. Maybe if they did the right thing, and stopped paying people with non-taxable healthcare instead of cash, this would all fix itself.

    On the one hand, its great to hear private enterprise stepping up to fix govt. mismanagement. On the other hand, I don't expect their solution to acknowledge those of us who aren't their wage slaves. Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift, the out-of-work cowboys in "The Misfits", agreed that "Anything is better than wages". They had the good fortune to live before the average american was defined and controlled by the iRS and a corporate job.

  • Whorton||

    Not to mention, just becasue Bezos implemented innovation in retail, does not give him ANY level of expertise in matters medical. . . His attempts are arrogant and doomed to fail.

  • emmanuel||

    Amazon thinks my address of twenty years doesn't exist. Wonder how good Amazon Health would be?

  • Whorton||

    I was fine until I read this idea near the end:

    "What the U.S. health care system needs most is not to do the same thing it's doing now, just a little better or more efficiently, with GOVERNMENT AT THE CENTER."

    AR YOU CRAZY? Has reason lost all ability to reason? Government at the Center of healthcare? Consider the V.A., Do you honestly think for a moment, that our government who cannot even build a highway or run a military campaign under budget or without thousands of needless and useless bureaucrats having their fingers in the pie?

    Government intervention leads to corruption. Everything government touches or attempts to accomplish rots and creeps over time. Any fool that believes government should head healthcare should have their head examined AND forced to participate eternally in such healthcare.

  • hello.||

    Typical of Peter Suderman. He has never met a government intervention in health care that he didn't pop a chub for.

  • vek||

    Stand alone clinics are the answer. Urgent care places are spreading pretty good now, at least in my area, but laws holding back other specialty places are a big problem. Everybody needs to go to HSAs and more stand alone clinics. That alone would pretty much create the price transparency the health care market needs to actually get it's shit together. Unfortunately there are a million reforms needed to do those two simple things, and they're spread across all 50 states, and thousands of counties etc etc etc.

    It's a shit show. I've not had insurance for YEARS, and saved literally tens of thousands of dollars, since I've only had to spend a few grand during the whole time. I almost signed up for proper HSA setup a few years back, but didn't. Probably will finally get around to it soon though. Catastrophic insurance + paying out of pocket for everything else is the only was that makes sense for the consumer, and for the market overall.

  • Jujucat||

    What's your problem with CATS, man?

  • Crymoricus||

    Don't be dumb. Amazon wants to create a single-payer system, and eventually make excuses to turn a profit. If you're in favor of this, why not just be in favor of Medicare for all?

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