Amazon is broadening its reach to lower-income customers with the addition of an almost 50% discount on Prime memberships for people on Medicaid, the federal public health insurance program for the poor.\r\nLast year Amazon made the same discount available to people receiving government food benefits, once known as food stamps.\r\nBeginning\u00a0Wednesday,\u00a0qualifying recipients of Medicaid will be eligible for a discounted Prime membership\u00a0of $5.99 per month, as opposed to the normal rate of $12.99\u00a0a month. No annual commitment is required and customers can get the discount for up to four years.\u00a0\r\nOn a yearly basis, the discount\u00a0is $27\u00a0cheaper than the\u00a0regular annual Prime rate of $99.\u00a0Customers can also sign up for a free 30-day trial of the service.\u00a0\r\nIt's part of a concerted effort on the part of the Seattle e-tailing giant to gain more market share among\u00a0low-income consumers and those without access to traditional banking and credit.\u00a0\r\n\u00a0\r\nIt represents a market Amazon can expand. According to data from Piper Jaffray, \u00a0last year 82% of U.S. households with incomes of more than $112,000 a year were already Prime members. For households with incomes between $21,000 and $41,000, the brokerage estimated 52% were Prime members.\r\nMaximum income levels for Medicaid eligibility vary by state and situation but in 2017 were about $28,000 for a family of three, according to the\u00a0Kaiser Foundation.\u00a0\r\nPrime subscribers spend a lot more on Amazon\u00a0\u2014\u00a0$1,300 per year on average \u2014 compared to\u00a0about $700 for non-Prime members, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.\r\nAmazon is clear that it\u2019s making this move for business reasons, not for altruism, but that doesn\u2019t mean it won\u2019t help people, said Avi Greengart, an industry analyst with GlobalData, a market research firm.\r\n\u00a0\r\n"The ability to order things online and have them shipped directly to your door within a quick time frame, people in higher earning demographics have long seen this as a convenience that changes the way they shop. People that this opportunity are targeting are going to get that chance for the first time\u00a0\u2014\u00a0and they may actually need it more,\u201d he said.\r\nIt also allows Amazon to go head-to-head with Walmart for a less-affluent market, though Amazon does not describe it that way.\r\n"This is just about our customers and our members and giving them the best of Amazon with an\u00a0incredible selection of benefits. We\u2019re really customer-focused and not competitor-focused," said\u00a0Aaron Perrine, program leader for Amazon's Prime Lifestages group.\u00a0\r\nThat said, "it's\u00a0certainly the case that we're\u00a0hoping to create some lifetime Prime members here," he said.\r\nAmazon has also been working to increase its reach to those without access to financial services. People without bank accounts, the \u201cunbanked,\u201d made up about 15% of U.S. consumers in 2016, according to research by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The majority have household incomes under $25,000 a year.\r\nWhile they might not have access to a computer, almost 60% have a smartphone, making online purchases possible.\r\nAmazon has also been creating systems for those without credit or even bank accounts to buy on the site. This is a boon both for low-income Americans and also for Millennials and younger Americans, who are less likely to have credit cards.\u00a0\r\nIn\u00a0November\u00a0the company launched a program where people could add cash to their Amazon balance at participating convenience, grocery and drug stores, another way to bring those without credit cards into the Amazon fold.\r\nOn Monday a report in\u00a0The\u00a0Wall Street Journal\u00a0suggested Amazon was considering a debit-card-like program for those without access to credit cards.\u00a0\r\nHalf of Millennials can\u2019t qualify\u00a0for a credit card, \u201cso you need to come up with an alternative payment method,\u201d said David Robertson, publisher of The Nilson Report, a newsletter on the payment industry.