Health Giants Go After ‘Giant Pot’ of Medicare Money


Giant corporations have begun buying up primary care practices to access their vast patient pools.

Examples covered in this space include Aetna’s $11 billion acquisition of Oak Street Health, and Amazon’s $4 billion purchase of One Medical.

But as The New York Times reported Monday (May 8), there’s another incentive for these companies to enter the primary healthcare space: the growing privatization of Medicare.

“That’s the big pot of money everyone is aiming at,” Erin C. Fuse Brown, director of the Center for Law, Health & Society at Georgia State University, told the Times. “It’s a one-stop shop for all your health care dollars.”

The report adds that this has left many doctors feeling like employees.

“We’ve seen this loss of autonomy,” said Dr. Dan Moore, who launched his own practice in Virginia to get more say in how he cares for patients. “You don’t become a physician to spend an average of seven minutes with a patient.”

The Times also notes that while the absorption of medical practices by big companies is not new, it has reached a point where nearly 70% of doctors work either for a hospital or a corporation, per a recent analysis from the Physicians Advocacy Institute.

PYMNTS looked at the trend of big business’ push into healthcare last week by examining recent health offerings from retail giants Walmart and Amazon.

“While the companies compete in the same category, close analysis reveals they may not be competing for the same consumers,” PYMNTS wrote. “If we look at how the companies describe their services, we can find small yet noticeable differences.”

Walmart describes its health offering as “accessible, convenient and affordable,” while Amazon promises “better health outcomes, better care experiences, and more value.”

While both descriptions allude to consumers getting a good deal, consumers who desire “value” still have options, but those who seek things that are “affordable” do not, indicating a key difference between the Walmart and Amazon customer bases.

“Amazon’s most frequent shoppers have more income similarities to Target’s shoppers than Walmart’s,” PYMNTS noted. “Sixty-one percent of those who say they shop at Amazon at least once a week annually earn $100,000 or more, compared to 34% for Walmart.”

And while Amazon has particular sway with these high-income consumers, Walmart more successfully pulls from low-income shoppers. One third of Walmart’s frequent shoppers have incomes of under $50,000, more than double Amazon’s 15%.