The Big Deal closes, but loose ends and larger issues remain. Today’s news of Amazon closing its purchase of the One Medical primary care group is being received in the press, especially the healthcare press, enthusiastically. This Editor cannot blame her counterparts, as since last year there’s not been much in the way of good news, compared to 2020-21’s bubble bath. Her bet as of a couple of weeks ago was that the deal would not go through due to Amazon’s financial losses in 2022 and/or that the FTC would further hold it up, both of which I was wrong, wrong, wrong on. (Cue the fresh egg on the face.)
Wiping off said egg, here is what Amazon is buying and their first marketing move. (Information on size and more from the 1 Life 2022 year end 10-K):
- Amazon acquired 1Life Healthcare Inc. for $3.9 billion, or $18 per share in cash.
- The practices are primarily branded as One Medical, closing out 2022 with 836,000 members and 220 medical offices in 27 markets
- It is a value-based primary care model with direct consumer enrollment and third-party sponsorship across commercially insured and Medicare populations. Their Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an extremely high 90. (NPS is a proprietary research metric that indicates customer loyalty and satisfaction.)
- They also have at-risk members from the $2.1 billion Iora Medical acquisition in seven states, in Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare shared savings value-based care (VBC) arrangements [TTA 27 July 22].
- One Medical has contracts with over 9,000 companies, establishing Amazon at long last in the desirable corporate market.
- One Medical also provides a 24/7 telehealth service exclusively to employees of enterprise customers where there are no clinics.
- Amazon will be offering a discounted individual membership of $144 versus $199 for the first year, without an Amazon Prime subscription.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which had additional questions about the buy as part of a Second Request in the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act reporting process, did not act in time to prevent the closing. Nor did the SEC or DOJ. This is CEO Andy Jassy’s first Big Deal at Amazon and certainly, the champagne and kvelling are flowing at HQ plus One Medical’s investors and shareholders for a successful exit. But should Amazon be looking over their shoulder?
What are the open issues? Is a large, hungry Bear called Antitrust being poked, or lying in wait for its prey?
- The FTC has the right to probe into the transaction despite the closing and a deadline passing for antitrust review. In FierceHealthcare and STAT, FTC spokesman Douglas Farrar is quoted as telling the WSJ (paywalled) in a statement that “The FTC’s investigation of Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical continues. The commission will continue to look at possible harms to competition created by this merger as well as possible harms to consumers that may result from Amazon’s control and use of sensitive consumer health information held by One Medical.”
- As previously reported here, only in December did the FTC send out subpoenas to current and former One Medical current and former customers as part of its investigation. That’s late to stop a buy–unless FTC had something else larger in mind.
- Early February reports in Bloomberg and the WSJ indicated that this may be part of a larger FTC action in developing a wide-ranging antitrust lawsuit against Amazon on multiple anticompetitive business practices. Their chair, Lina Khan, is highly critical of Amazon’s business practices. Amazon’s buy of iRobot, maker of Roomba, which at $1.7 billion was a comparative snack, is still not closed and has received a lot of negative attention for possible misuse of consumer information.
- Sidebar: This FTC is ‘feeling its oats’ on antitrust. GoodRx found itself making history as FTC’s first culprit of the 2009 Health Breach Notification Rule, used to prosecute companies for misuse of consumer health information. This was for their past use of Meta Pixel, discontinued 2019, to send information to third-party advertisers. One Medical is a HIPAA-covered entity which puts it at a far higher risk level.
- The Department of Justice (DOJ) has not publicly moved to approve or disapprove–yet.
- The change of ownership has not been reported as passing muster by regulators in multiple states. Example: Oregon approved it, but with multiple stipulations [TTA 6 Jan]–and there are only five One Medical clinics in Oregon. States like New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California are not exactly pushovers for approval, with California alone having two approval entities.
- Congress is increasingly feisty on data privacy–consumer health information and its misuse in telehealth [TTA 9 Feb].
Will this be ‘buy now, regret later’, a lá Teladoc’s expensive acquisition of Livongo, or Babylon Health going public with a SPAC? Is this a clever trap laid for Amazon?
- Amazon is already under a Federal and state microscope on data privacy. Information crossing over from One Medical to their ecommerce operations such as Pharmacy and Prime will just add to the picture.
- Accepting Medicare/Medicare Advantage increases scrutiny on quality metrics and billing, to name only two areas. At-risk patients in Medicare and other VBC models, especially Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) fall under CMS scrutiny. Amazon may take a look at that and spin-off/sell off the former Iora Health practices/patients.
- Amazon has failed in healthcare previously, as a partner in the misbegotten Haven and in its own Amazon Care ‘home delivery’/telehealth model selling to companies, now closed. Its asynchronous virtual care service, Amazon Clinic, is too new to judge its success.
- Office-based, brick-and-mortar healthcare provided by doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals is an entirely new area for Amazon. Will they be satisfied with their new masters–and new metrics? It is also expensive. One Medical has never been profitable and did not project breakeven for years. (If one asks how this is different than CVS acquiring Oak Street Health, or Walgreens acquiring VillageMD and Summit Health, CVS and Walgreens have experience for decades in multiple aspects of providing healthcare–profitably and in compliance.)
- One wonders how heavy of a hand Amazon will place on One Medical’s operations. How their management, doctors, and other professionals will feel after a year or two of Amazon ownership is anyone’s guess. This Editor doubts they will remain in place or silent if unhappy.
- Selling to enterprises–and account retention–is a vastly different relationship-building process and buyer journey than 1:many consumer transactions. One Medical made a go of it with 9,000 companies and enrolling employees at about a 40% rate, so they did something right. By contrast, Amazon failed to sell Amazon Care well to companies. Humility and service, for starters, are required.
- Last but certainly not least, is how Amazon will deal with regulation and compliance at multiple levels.
Expect that the FTC and DOJ will not be done with Amazon any time soon in what looks like a wider antitrust pursuit that may take some time, which they have. Amazon has tens of millions in government business (AWS) at stake and shareholders expecting a reversal of losses. Pro tip to Amazon: run One Medical as a separate operation with minimal integration and no information sharing until past this. And then some. Healthcare Dive, Becker’s