Painful Truth: Amazon is coming for health care. Run!

Billionaires with no experience in health? Why does that sound like a recipe for disaster.

Three billionaires walk into a bar.

“What’ll it be?” says the bartender.

“We’re going to fix health care!” says the first billionaire.

That’s not a punchline because it’s not a joke. Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway are teaming up, like a plutocratic version of the Superfriends, to rescue (American) health care from waste and confusion.

Guys, I’m grateful every day to live in Canada, but seldom have I been so grateful as the day I heard the Lex Luthor-looking dude in charge of Amazon was trying to fix American health care.

I’m seriously considering going down to the 49th parallel and setting up a giant sign that says “RUN NOW! FLEE WHILE YOU CAN!”

Is our health care system perfect? No. Could we improve it? Yes.

Will we ever be chased down the streets by syringe-tipped drones, operated by minimum-wage shift workers in a sweltering warehouse in Akron? No. But that’s probably in the cards for our American cousins once AmazonPrimeHealth kicks in.

Everything about this venture reeks of hubris.

First, they openly announced that they don’t have a plan yet. Or any ideas, other than the vague notion that somehow “technology” will help streamline health care.

Second, they are like a large number of people who have achieved vast success in one area of endeavour. They think this has made them experts at everything.

That’s not how it works. The world’s greatest chef is not automatically also the world’s greatest trapeze artist.

“Making money” is essentially its own skill, as many rich men who’ve run straight into a brick wall in politics or even in other business sectors have discovered.*

Third and finally, health care is likely too big even for three of the world’s richest people to solve. It’s the kind of thing you tackle when you have the resources of a nation, including the power to tax and make policy.

Frankly, the whole thing will probably dissolve in a few months and be forgotten. If it isn’t, a lot of hubris and a lot of money can cause real damage.

Even if they have good intentions… well, maybe Buffett has good intentions. But if you think I trust a bank CEO or the head of Amazon, I’ve got a medical tech startup to sell you.

Bezos is the scariest of the trio. He literally has so much money that he could fill an Olympic sized swimming pool and go for a dip like Scrooge McDuck. Meanwhile, Amazon has crushed every attempt at unionization and drives many of its warehouse workers to exhaustion, all in the name of shareholder value and efficiency.

You can bet their plans will start out with something simple, like an app that collects your health information and makes it readily available to Russian hackers. But a decade from now, Amazon Organ Collection units will be out repossessing the spleens of people who fell behind on their Prime membership payments.

* Yes, Donald Trump. I’d argue he was terrible at business to start with. His core skill seems to be “huckster.”

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