In a significant move, Apple quietly this week unveiled its intent to set up a network of health clinics for employees and their families at the tech company’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.
The company published a website, acwellness.com, with some detail about its initiative and a careers page listing positions it’s looking to fill, including primary care doctor, exercise coach, care navigator and a phlebotomist to administer on-site lab tests.
Citing a launch date of spring 2018, AC Wellness describes itself as an “independent medical practice dedicated to delivering compassionate, effective healthcare to the Apple employee population.”
“AC Wellness Network believes that having trusting, accessible relationships with our patients, enabled by technology, promotes high-quality care and a unique patient experience,” the company wrote on its website. “This is fostered by an environment of continuous learning and teamwork, which in turn allows us to work with our patients to achieve exceptional health outcomes. The centers offer a unique concierge-like healthcare experience for employees and their dependents.”
Requests for further comment from Apple were not returned.
Apple’s move follows on the heels of several other employers taking healthcare into their own hands. Amazon announced last month that it is creating an independent healthcare company in partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase for the three companies’ U.S.-based employees and their families.
Employee medical expenditures have been the driving factor behind these moves. Last year, premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage hit $18,764, up 3% from the previous year, with employees paying an average $5,714 toward the cost, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But it’s not the first time large companies have been banded together in recent years to take proactive action against high prices in the American healthcare system.
Two years ago, 20 of America’s largest companies — including American Express, Verizon, Caterpillar and Marriott International — formed the not-for-profit Health Transformation Alliance, with the stated goal to “improve the way healthcare benefits will be purchased for employees in an effort to create better healthcare outcomes and to “break with existing marketplace practices that are costly, wasteful and inefficient, all of which have resulted in employees paying higher premiums, copayments and deductibles every year.”
“Apple may not be the first to set up on-site health clinics but they may be one of the most exciting," says Mike Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. The organization advises around 12,000 organizations that buy health plans for millions of employees.
"Comprehensive team-based primary care founded on trusting relationships, enhanced access and patient experience and state-of-the art technology has been shown to improve health and save costs downstream. If they are successful in this as they have been in other areas, Apple could set a new benchmark for how we can achieve better value and outcomes through advanced primary care," he continues. “Any time organizations of this caliber — these are world class organizations — say they are going to tackle healthcare, you have to pay attention."
“Apple’s move to provide clinics for its employees is part of a bigger trend among employers who offer on-site care as a perk, but also as a way to enhance the role of primary care and to control utilization of an overpriced health care system with uneven quality,” adds Suzanne Delbanco, executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform, a nonprofit helping employers and other health care purchasers get better value for their health care dollar.
But there are some skeptics who say American business can successfully battle that nation’s largest healthcare players.
“Most health costs are incurred by a small percent of the population with chronic conditions,” notes American Benefits Council president James Klein. “So if this initiative is just about how health costs are paid for, and does not promote ways to improve health itself, the impact will be minimal.”
Kathryn Mayer and Jeri Clausing contributed to this report.
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