Health Services, Payers

Lyft opens up access to covered rides for Arizona’s 1.7 million Medicaid patients

The San Francisco company received approval to register as a non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) provider, following the state’s decision to allow rideshare companies to qualify for the designation.

Lyft has pulled ahead of its rideshare competitors in the race to help transport the nearly 65 million Medicaid beneficiaries around the country to their doctor’s appointments.

The San Francisco company received approval to register as a non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) provider in Arizona, following the state’s decision to allow rideshare companies to qualify for the designation.

This has the effect of making Lyft rides a covered transportation option for the 1.7 million people who get their healthcare coverage through Medicaid in Arizona, equivalent to nearly a quarter of the state’s population.

Arizona became the first state in the country to open up the ability for rideshare companies to register as non-emergency medical transportation providers.

Still, Lyft probably won’t be alone in Arizona for long. Uber Health is also in the process of trying to be approved as a Medicaid transportation option.

Officials in the Florida and Texas have also recently approved similar proposals to Arizona and the two states look to be the next step in the rideshare companies’ Medicaid efforts.

“What we’re starting to see is a lot of interest because Medicaid wants to offer a great experience and a cost effective solution for their beneficiary and Lyft factors very nicely into that plan,” Lyft’s Vice President of Healthcare Megan Callahan said in an interview earlier this month.

Arizona Medicaid officials said that the process for booking transportation has not changed and transportation will continue to be requested through a patient’s health plan or transportation broker who will determine if a Lyft ride is an appropriate mode of transport.

Opening up rideshare companies as an option, however, will be a boon in a system that has traditionally had low consumer satisfaction and long wait times. According to an estimate published in the American Journal of Public Health, upgrading NEMT with ridesharing options could generate national cost-savings of more than $530 million.

Lyft established its healthcare division in 2016 and signed up a number of key partnerships to solidify the its presence in the space. The company currently has agreements with nine of the top 10 largest health systems in the country as well as the top 10 NEMT brokers.

An exclusive partnership with Allscripts has also opened up the ability for clinicians to book rides for patients directly in their EHR systems.

The company has also worked with integrated health plans like CareMore Health, where it was able to drive millions in cost savings by providing 7,000 rides per month and vastly cutting down on issues like patient satisfaction, long wait times and issues of fraud and abuse.

Another potential growth market for the company’s healthcare aspirations is Medicare Advantage, with Callahan saying that Lyft will be working with a majority of the large MA plans by 2020 through their broker partners.

“(MA plans) have given more latitude and I think what’s interesting there is not only talking to them about patient transportation, but things beyond that, and how that fits into their long term vision,” Callahan said.

More recently, Lyft has branched out from transporting individuals to-and-from doctor’s appointments and looked at other ways to use its service to overcome health barriers for patients.

Through a collaboration with the Blue Cross Cross Blue Shield Institute, CVS Health and Walgreens, the company has started to provide some patients rides to the pharmacy to help with medication adherence.

Additionally, the company’s Grocery Access Program provides affordable rides to grocery stores for families and residents in food deserts who have difficulty accessing fresh and healthy food. From an initial pilot in Washington, D.C., Lyft expanded the program earlier this year to 14 cities in the U.S. and Canada.

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