Amazon is making its first foray into providing health care services, announcing Wednesday that it will be offering its Amazon Care telemedicine program to employers nationwide.
Currently available to the company’s employees in Washington state, Amazon Care is an app that connects users virtually with doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses who can provide services and treatment over the phone 24 hours a day. In the Seattle area, it’s supplemented with in-person services such as pharmacy delivery and house-call services from nurses who can take blood work and provide similar services.
On Wednesday, the tech giant announced it will immediately expand the service to interested employers in Washington who want to purchase the service for their employees. By the summer, Amazon Care will expand nationally to all Amazon workers, and to private employers across the country who want to join.
Policymakers are increasingly confronting a new problem, though: the entry of technology companies into financial services throws their trade-off framework off-kilter. There are two issues.
First, financial regulators don’t have jurisdiction over technology companies. They have jurisdiction over their financial activities but not over the companies themselves. At the entry level, this works fine. When a company wants to do payments, they need to get a payments license and when they want to do credit underwriting, they need a credit license.
Sometimes, new entrants skate round these rules. Afterpay in Australia is not regulated as a credit provider since it doesn’t impose a charge for the ability to pay; nor as a payment system since it conducts relationships bilaterally between consumers on the one hand and merchants on the other. In response to impending regulatory scrutiny, the company points out that the major card providers got away with it for 20 years. “The dominant international card payment systems…were launched in Australia in 1984 and were not subject to RBA [Reserve Bank of Australia] regulation until 2004.”