Lyft Gets Medicaid Certification in Quest to Address Social Determinants of Health

Medicaid beneficiaries in one state can now use Lyft (Nasdaq: LYFT) as a covered transportation option to get to and from medical appointments.

The San Francisco-based ride-hailing company announced Wednesday that it has become a certified Medicaid provider in Arizona, where it aims to help address social determinants of health by reducing missed doctor’s visits for eligible patients.

“One of the key social determinants of health is access to services and programs that promote health and well-being,” Megan Callahan, vice president of healthcare at Lyft, told Home Health Care News in an email. “Transportation is the key to unlocking that access — and ride-sharing is the most cost-effective, reliable, safe and convenient option.”

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Lyft’s move comes about two months after Arizona first announced a policy change that allows ride-share companies to register as non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) providers

Lyft worked with the state’s Medicaid agency to “support” Arizona in making it happen, Callahan said.

“Patients don’t have to do anything different,” Callahan said. “Arizona beneficiaries should continue to work through their existing plans and processes.”

Currently, about 23% of Arizona’s population is enrolled in Medicaid — but that’s only a fraction of the impact Lyft hopes to make, as it urges other states to follow suit with updated NEMT regulations.

Many states have NEMT policies in place that predate ride-hailing — essentially making it impossible for companies like Uber and Lyft to get in the game.

“Too many Americans are confronted with barriers when they need to see a physician, and without adequate access, this causes missed appointments, delayed diagnoses and often worsening of existing health conditions,” Callahan said. “By modernizing the approach and improving access, we have the potential to impact nearly 65 million people — or one-fifth of the U.S. population.”

In addition to Arizona, a handful of other states are also hopping on board with plans to update NEMT policies to open up possibilities for ride-hailing companies. For example, Lyft is “actively enrolling and exploring opportunities” in states such as Texas and Florida, Callahan said.

This is far from Lyft’s first attempt to tackle social determinants of health. Earlier this year, the company announced it expected to “be working with the majority of the largest Medicare Advantage (MA) plans by 2020.”

New flexibility for MA plans are driving those pursuits.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced MA plans will be allowed to offer any supplemental benefits that “have a reasonable expectation of improving or maintaining the health or overall function” of beneficiaries with chronic conditions.

In many cases, that includes transportation — lack of which contributes to as many as 30% of all patients missing doctor appointments and $150 billion in lost revenue in the health care industry annually, according to a report by health care technology firm SCI Solutions.

Addressing those statistics and leading to better health outcomes is also the goal of Lyft’s new Medicaid provider status.

Meanwhile, it will not affect existing partnerships with home-based care providers in Arizona, Callahan said.

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