Amazon is providing direct primary care (DPC) to its workforce through 20 new health centers, in a partnership with national medical group Crossover Health.
Centers are opening in five regions of the United States where Amazon operates fulfillment centers. The first is expected to open in Las Colinas, Texas, and if the centers prove to be a success, the company plans to open more. Amazon employs one million workers, making it the second largest employer behind Walmart.
“Across the U.S., an increasing number of patients do not have easy access to a primary care physician and instead utilize emergency or urgent care options, which is not only more expensive for patients, but also overlooks important preventative care opportunities,” said Darci Henry, Amazon’s vice president of human resources, in a statement.
The clinics will provide primary care, vaccines, physical therapy, chiropractic care, behavioral health, health coaching, and specialist referrals. Clinics will accommodate Amazon’s round-the-clock workforce and their families by expanding hours and offering virtual care.
DPC On the Move
The announcement is welcome news, proponents of free-market health care say.
“Amazon doesn’t launch into new lines of business unless they are convinced of their viability,” says Mark Blocher, CEO and president of Christian Healthcare Centers, a direct primary care provider based in Michigan. “Therefore, the announcement is a validation of the DPC movement that is spreading throughout the US. More and more companies want to contract directly with healthcare providers rather than through third-party payers, such as insurance companies.”
“A number of big companies who self-fund their health insurance has been going in this direction for some time,” says Russ Carpel, CEO of LevelFunded Health. “The one concern I would have is patient privacy, especially now under COVID when a number of protections have been put on hold. Will Amazon have access to employee medical records?”
Carpel says the partnership is an improvement over the third-party payer system, where preferred provider organizations determine prices with providers.
“This setup eliminates those backroom deals,” Carpel said. “If done correctly, it can save money and keep quality care intact.”
The Amazon move shows what big companies can do to cut health care costs when they think out of the box, says Adam Habig, president and co-found of Freedom Healthworks and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News.
“Too often, employers have tunnel vision for high cost centers like surgical procedures and medications. While it’s easy to trim fat from those areas, primary care is where deep, sustainable savings are generated,” said Habig. “Using employer clinics to procure DPC is really only feasible for the largest employers like Amazon, but all companies can emulate Amazon by using affiliated communities of independent direct care practices, like Freedom Healthworks.”
AnneMarie Schieber (email@example.com) is managing editor of Health Care News.