Amazon’s flagship subscription service, Prime, counts 166 million people — nearly half of the U.S. population — as members and has become the default way many Americans shop for nearly everything. Amazon, however, is not content with monopolizing Americans’ shopping experience; it now wants to take the Prime model to our healthcare system — a move that comes with serious data privacy concerns that Beltway policymakers must carefully scrutinize.

The retail giant recently completed a $4 billion deal to acquire primary care provider One Medical — a move that is rightly raising red flags from several government agencies amid questions regarding what medical data Amazon would control, and whether One Medical patient data would give the retailer a competitive advantage over competitors and customers.

The Federal Trade Commission in September launched an in-depth review of Amazon’s takeover, and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers recently introduced a bill called the American Data Privacy and Protection Act to increase privacy protections for Americans. The bill’s “data minimization” provisions would prohibit targeting ads based on “sensitive data,” which would include health information and private communications.

Both moves are heartening pieces of news in the fight against the “Amazonification” of healthcare, but more needs to be done — and to be done quicker — because Amazon’s continued creep into our healthcare system is just too harmful to patients, consumers and competitors.

Amazon, for example, disclosed that it will shutter its One Medical telehealth competitor, Amazon Care, by the end of the year, which analysts pegged as a strategic move to take advantage of One Medical’s 200 clinics, 8,000 enterprise clients, and vast database of consumer data. Instead of innovating, Amazon is simply buying a competing business and gaining access to another trove of data that it can use to target and manipulate consumers while cutting out competition.

While Amazon argues that it faces stiff competition in the health market from firms such as United’s Optum, CVS Health and Aetna and has downplayed privacy concerns saying it will comply with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, many healthcare industry analysts remain rightly skeptical.

“In terms of Amazon’s track record … there are instances in which the company has given broad swaths of its global workforce latitude to tap into consumer data,” Axios health tech reporter Erin Brodwin said in a recent interview on “PBS Newshour.” 

“Forty-four percent of U.S. residents use Prime. That is a crazy amount, especially considering that the largest healthcare system in America, HCA, only has access to approximately 1 percent of U.S. residents. Amazon knows what you’re buying, what pills you take, and it can guide your decisions to buy and when.”

Amazon also has a history of moving healthcare services under its Prime umbrella. Take the online pharmacy PillPack, which Amazon bought in 2018 for a reported $750 million. The service was integrated into Amazon Prime in 2020, promoting deep discounts and price comparison tools to its flagship membership service while drawing concern from critics that further consolidations of medical services would follow.

Several lawmakers have urged regulators to investigate and potentially block the One Medical merger. Sen. Amy Klobucharm D-Minn., opined that the transaction raises significant questions about potential anticompetitive effects related to Amazon’s pharmacy services business and preferencing vendors who offer other services through Amazon. 

Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, warned that Amazon could establish its Prime unit as a “business associate” under HIPAA that would entitle it to access One Medical patient data. Many labor unions, medical providers and advocates of stronger antitrust enforcement also worry the deal would further entrench Amazon’s market power.

Amazon already has a dismal track record when it comes to health data, which only increases the urgency for regulatory action. The company recently faced a firestorm of criticism regarding Halo Band, a fitness tracker that gathered voice recordings and user photos to feed to artificial intelligence. A Reuters report found Amazon’s Alexa devices stored thousands of sensitive recordings without consumers’ consent or knowledge.

Under Chair Lina Khan, the FTC has taken a tough stance on Amazon. With the Seattle-based company going so far as to petition the agency to remove Khan from her role in probes of the tech giant, contending that her past criticism of the company violates due-process rights.

Neither Khan nor lawmakers in Washington, however, should back down from Amazon’s bullying and lobbying efforts. These investigations and reviews should not just continue, but intensify, if Americans are to be assured that they can continue to choose freely their healthcare provider and not have some of their most sensitive information be used by tech giants like Amazon.