July 21, 2022 by Brett Wilkins for Common Dreams
Privacy, antitrust, and other advocates on Thursday sounded the alarm over Amazon’s purchase of boutique healthcare company One Medical, a move that one group said “opens a terrifying new frontier in surveillance of Americans by private corporations.”
CNBC reports Amazon is acquiring One Medical, a San Francisco-based private health services provider with 188 locations whose 767,000 members pay around $200 in annual concierge fees, for about $3.9 billion, or $18 per share.
Neil Lindsay, Amazon’s senior vice president of health services, told The Washington Post—which is owned by Amazon multi-billionaire founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos—that “we think healthcare is high on the list of experiences that need reinvention.”
However, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted: “The function of a rational healthcare system is to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way, not make billionaires like Jeff Bezos even richer. At a time of growing concentration of ownership, the Justice Department must deny Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical.”
Barry Lynn, executive director of the Open Markets Institute (OMI), an anti-monopoly think tank, asserted in a statement that “U.S. enforcement agencies should block this deal.”
“They should also move swiftly to establish a basic set of rules to protect every corner of America’s health industry from the power of the manipulation platforms,” he added.
If the One Medical deal is completed, it would mark Amazon’s third-biggest acquisition after Whole Foods ($13.7 billion) and MGM Studios ($8.5 billion).
While One Medical CEO Amir Dan Rubin said the Amazon acquisition presents “an immense opportunity to make the healthcare experience more accessible, affordable, and even enjoyable,” critics warned of the dangers to public health in a nation that spends far more per capita on healthcare than other developed countries while experiencing overall inferior outcomes.
“This will be a blow to the fight for universal healthcare,” opined journalist Aaron T. Rose. “Imagine all the money Amazon will pour into lobbying to stop Medicare for All now that they have a dog in the fight.”
Others expressed concerns about the threats to privacy and competition. OMI’s Lynn wrote:
Amazon’s takeover of One Medical is the latest shot in a terrifying new stage in the business model of the world’s largest corporations. The deal will expand Amazon’s ability to collect the most intimate and personal of information about individuals, in order to track, target, manipulate, and exploit people in ever more intrusive ways.
Amazon is not the only dangerous actor here. Google’s recent takeover of the fitness tracker Fitbit poses similar threats. Every American should stand against this radical extension of corporate power into our lives. In addition to manipulating how we talk to one another and do business with one another, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple are moving fast to manipulate our perceptions of our own health and well-being.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent reversal of Roe v. Wade and Republican-led states’ moves to criminalize people who have, perform, or “abet” abortions, reproductive rights advocates feared the implications of Amazon’s purchase.
“One Medical currently has healthcare locations in Georgia, Texas, Ohio, and Arizona—all states we can expect will prosecute pregnant people for abortions or adverse pregnancy outcomes,” tweeted Robyn Swirling, founder and executive director of the progressive advocacy group Works in Progress. “So you can maybe see why Amazon having their medical data is, perhaps, not going to be safe!”
This isn’t Amazon’s first foray into the healthcare services sector. It bought online pharmacy PillPack in 2018 for $750 million, launched Amazon Pharmacy in 2020, and earlier this year expanded its Amazon Care telehealth program nationwide.
“Is there anything,” asked NPR correspondent David Gura in response to Amazon’s latest acquisition, “this corporation won’t know about your day-to-day life?”