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Blue Shield of California CEO Paul Markovich Discusses Collaborations to Strengthen Value in Drug Supply System and Improve Customer Experience Alongside Amazon’s Neil Lindsay

Markovich was joined by Amazon’s senior vice president of Health Services at the Fortune Brainstorm Health Conference last month.
Chrissy Farr, Second Opinion Media; Neil Lindsay, Amazon; and Paul Markovich, Blue Shield of California

“We spent a lot of time designing what a stronger, more transparent and fair drug supply system centering value, efficacy and the patient experience would look like — and then we had to figure out how to get the drugs efficiently from point A to point B,” said Blue Shield of California president and CEO Paul Markovich at Fortune Brainstorm Health 2024.

“Who does that better than anyone else in the world?”

Enter Amazon. During his panel at the annual healthcare conference in May, Markovich laid out Blue Shield of California’s vision for our pathbreaking new pharmacy benefits model and his enthusiasm to be working with the tech and commerce company as one of its allies in delivering the model’s benefits to Blue Shield members.

Markovich was joined on stage by Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, in a conversation moderated by Chrissy Farr of Second Opinion Media. The trio discussed several key themes around partnerships in health care, including how Markovich and Lindsay both believe that the industry will fail to reach a more sustainable, efficient model without more collaboration from all stakeholders.

Lindsay echoed Markovich’s excitement, and shared that both entities are on the same page when it comes to making the current drug supply chain simpler and more affordable for our consumers. Blue Shield’s new prescription drug model breaks from the status quo and delivers a modular solution that promotes a long-term shift away from overreliance on rebates and intermediaries.

“Paul and I actually met at a conference similar to this one,” said Lindsay. “I think we both felt the frustration that this is too damn hard. It’s going to require some invention and reinvention, and I’ve been inspired by Paul’s motivation. We’re excited to help him.”

From there, the conversation zeroed in on the hope that both sides have kicked off a much-needed trend of collaboration in health care. In fact, Markovich added that, since the announcement in August 2023, he’s received plenty of interest from industry peers.

“There’s a lot of interest from other Blue plans that I’ve spoken to,” said Markovich. “I do think there is going to be substantial movement toward this model once it’s successful, and I just think everyone is going to have to move to something like this.”

“The current system is structurally built to enhance profit," he added.

Blue Shield is partnering with Amazon and other selected companies to decouple the services provided by traditional pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and enable access to prescription drugs as a more transparent and overall improved experience for patients. Blue Shield of California is working to prove to other stakeholders and all those watching that large health plans can indeed work effectively with tech and consumer companies.

Further, Markovich noted that health plans themselves need a reminder that their members can and should be treated as customers with a high bar for service and support. Patients deserve a convenient and seamless option for receiving their drugs, and this collaboration allows for that.

“We are obsessed with how we can make the customers’ experience better,” said Markovich. “I don’t think we should shy away from those terms in talking about people. One of the reasons is, we’re interested in the health of everyone, whether they’re technically a patient or not. You may not need to see a physician or use the medical system, but how are you sleeping? How's your nutrition?”

“Those things all matter, but I don’t think anyone who’s in that situation would see themselves as a patient.”

Markovich added that while the current healthcare system is not well-designed for consumers, the collaboration with Amazon is proving that it is not too late for it to be changed for the better.

Markovich and Lindsay’s full panel, titled “Reimagining Partnership and Building a Stronger Healthcare System” is available to watch here.