As Medicare Advantage (MA) plans prepare to expand their supplemental benefits in 2020 to cover even more non-medical services, players from a growing number of industries are hopping on board.
That includes ride-hailing companies such as Lyft (Nasdaq: LYFT) and Uber (NYSE: UBER), which say seniors are a driving force in their health care businesses. The competitors have been vocal about the need to tackle social determinants of health, with MA plans becoming an increasingly popular vehicle to make it happen.
Last month, for example, Lyft Vice President of Health Care Megan Callahan told Home Health Care News the company plans to “be working with the majority of the largest MA plans by 2020.”
While Uber executives have been more tight-lipped, the San Francisco-based company is quietly working to grow its MA presence behind the scenes, Dan Trigub — the head of Uber Heath and a former member of Lyft’s health care arm — told HHCN.
As a home care veteran as well, Trigub says he’s also bullish about partnerships with home-based care agencies — though he doesn’t see technology as a quick-fix to much-needed disruption in the industry.
You can read HHCN’s conversation with Trigub below, edited for length and clarity.
HHCN: We’re doing this interview shortly after the June 3 deadline for health plans to submit bids to participate in Medicare Advantage for 2020. Can you share any insights about your MA partnerships for next year and beyond?
Trigub: It is an area of focus for us.
We strongly believe that our solutions can be utilized by MA plans, especially when you look at social determinants of health and the impact things like transportation have on the members that they serve.
So for us, building deeper partnerships and relationships with the MA plans across the country is definitely one of our priorities.
Can you talk about any MA partnerships you have right now?
We haven’t made anything public [or] made any announcements in the MA space, in particular.
What I can say is that we do have a dedicated team that does spend time talking to the large payers — large and small — across the country, and really looking at ways we can build innovative solutions for allowing them to better serve their members.
A lot of it also goes through the traditional Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) brokers, so for us, building deeper integrations with them is very important.
Sounds like you have a lot of things cooking on the partnership front. Generally, what’s Uber Health’s partnership strategy as it relates to health care organizations?
Our mission at Uber is to ignite opportunities by setting the world in motion.
Certainly, we believe Uber Health plays a big part in that. We serve all populations, but we believe when it comes to our aging — our at-risk, our underserved populations — that there’s so much we can do.
For us, at a high level, we want to have the biggest impact on improving health outcomes. What that means is building integrations and partnerships with health care providers, working with payers and … working with the traditional NEMT brokers, which historically have been the ones that manage the transportation benefits for Medicare and Medicaid, and that have been part of that workflow for a very long time.
Today it’s: How do we embed with their workflows? How do we work with them to ultimately provide better access to transportation or for our underserved populations?
Where does home-based care fit into that? For example, I know you have some home-based care partners you work with to hail rides for senior patients. What else are you doing currently — and what are you planning to do in the future?
This is an area I’m personally very passionate about, and I spent a lot of my career looking at.
My family actually runs one of the largest privately owned home care agencies here in the Bay Area [called From the Heart Home Care]. It’s been a family business for over 15 years now.
Prior to joining Uber, I spent a lot of time in the elder care space. I had my own startup focused on our aging population [called OpenPlacement].
I think there’s so much we can do when it comes to home care. Coming from the industry, I can’t tell you how many times I would hear home care [caregivers] calling and saying, “My car broke down,” or, “I can’t get to my appointment.”
With ride-share — with Uber — that should not be a barrier or restrictor to be able to provide care.
We think when we work with home care providers, caregivers can be more productive. They can sit in the back seat, take notes and make phone calls — and not have to worry about driving a car, parking and all the headaches that come with car ownership.
They can do a better job. They can sit in the back seat with their client, and can attend to and focus on them, as opposed to where they’re driving and where they’re going next.
When it comes to home care, there’s a ton we’re doing today and a lot more we can do in the future, and ultimately providing better access to care through the solutions we provide at Uber Health.
Having that background in home care, you must have a special stake in this industry.
That’s the one thing I really stress. There’s so much going on in health care right now, and we’re not approaching this by just throwing tech at something that we don’t understand.
I think yes, technology is what powers us — and Uber is a technology company.
We do 15 million rides per day. That means, at a minimum, we’re connecting 30 million people per day. We’re as much a people company as we are a technology company.
When it comes to health care, it’s really understanding the needs of our population, understanding the vernacular and how people really operate in this industry.
With that said, HIPAA compliance is an area we’re really proud of. We spent a lot of time building that right infrastructure here at Uber. We worked with a third-party compliance firm called Clearwater Compliance and took a look at the way built our infrastructure, so the way we treat and store data is really designed with health care at top of mind.
Now, we feel like we’re in a really good position to be out in the market, and to grow these partnerships and grow our footprint of Uber Health.
Obviously, Uber just went public. I’m curious what this means for the health care arm of the company. I didn’t hear much talk of Uber Health in the Q1 earnings call.
It’s business as usual for us. We’re very proud of that moment, but there’s still a ton of work that we need to do.
For us, we are definitely laser focused — my team and I — on what we can do in health.
Again, it’s really building out these partnerships and working with world-class organizations we can improve health outcomes with.
Here at HHCN, we have a podcast called Disrupt, which focuses on disruption in the home-based care industry. How do you see Uber fitting into that?
Coming from this industry, it’s absolutely ripe for innovation, but that said, it’s a very people-focused industry. I don’t think tech is just going to overnight change it and drastically improve it in one fell swoop.
It is a process. The old way is caregivers getting into their own cars or a home care agency having to have its own fleet of vehicles — having to bear a lot of risk in terms of the caregiver if something would happen when they’re in the car.
I think [providers] are starting to see the power of ride-share — and Uber’s reach and breadth across the U.S.
I think they’re seeing this as a way to improve their operations, reduce waste, fraud and abuse. Instead of paper-and-pen receipts, it’s now fully automated through our solutions.
Typically, we see higher NPS scores and higher feedback of people who have access to ride share and Uber as traditional methods, so I think we are in the early days. There’s so much more we can do as we continue to grow our network and grow our footprint.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Returning to what’s going on in the Medicare Advantage space, the analogy I give is that, in 2009, when Uber first started, there were a handful of cities and states that had regulations passed for what are called TNCs, transportation network companies.
Fast forward to 2019, there’s pretty much transportation regulations passed in almost every city and state here in the U.S.
The same analogy I make for ride-share when it comes to rideshare for NEMT. When those regulations were written by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), they were written in a world before ride sharing ever existed.
Now, we’re starting to see momentum. I think we’re starting to see that the states and the federal government are seeing the power of ride-share when it comes to saving costs, reducing waste, fraud and abuse and providing a much better experience.
U.S. Senator Todd Young from Indiana wrote a letter [June 4] to CMS and its administrator, Seema Verma, for CMS to seriously consider ride-sharing services when it comes to NEMT.
We’re at the cusp of where I believe ride-sharing can continue to have a profound impact, especially for these underserved populations that Medicaid and Medicare serve.