Seth Carver, Class of 2020; Neil B. Krugman, Partner at Waller
In early 2018, Amazon announced a joint healthcare venture with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to build an independent, nonprofit healthcare company targeted at improving care and reducing costs for its employees.
Since then, the joint venture has continued to form and develop, hiring surgeon and author Dr. Atul Gawande as its chief executive. Outside of the joint venture, Amazon has also recently acquired PillPack, an online pharmacy, and now offers its own line of over-the-counter medical products, under the Basic Care brand.
These moves by Amazon, and a general lack of information about the joint venture’s ultimate goals, and, in particular, whether those plans include bringing healthcare services and products to the general public, make some segments of the health care industry nervous.
Recently the joint venture has encountered some headwinds in the form of a lawsuit filed against it by UnitedHealth. The latter company is seeking a temporary restraining order to block the joint venture from employing a former executive of UnitedHealth Optum, which is in the pharmacy benefit management business.
In her recent article in the New York Times, Reed Abelson described the suit as “a stark example of aggressive tactics that health companies have taken to protect their turf from technology powerhouses like Amazon and Apple,” and to pry open secrets about the joint venture’s ultimate plans.
The joint venture and Amazon’s moves in the health care space are especially pertinent to the Nashville healthcare industry with the recent announcement of Amazon’s “Operation Center of Excellence,” which will be located in Nashville Yards, just blocks away from Waller’s offices and the offices of such healthcare giants as HCA. Regardless of the joint venture’s or Amazon’s ultimate plans, Nashville’s local healthcare community is bound to be impacted by the influx of approximately 5,000 new Amazon employees, with an average salary of $150,000.