States Authorize Ridesharing for Medical Transport

The change classifies Lyft as a Medicaid provider, allowing recipients to use their benefits to pay for transport.

The change classifies Lyft as a Medicaid provider, allowing recipients to use their benefits to pay for transport. Shutterstock

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Medicaid recipients in Arizona can now use Lyft to travel to non-emergency medical appointments, with similar laws on the way in Florida and Texas.

Medicaid recipients in Arizona can use their benefits to pay for Lyft rides to and from medical appointments, the result of a recent policy change by the state’s program.

The change, announced in May by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, allows ride-sharing companies to register as providers for Medicaid beneficiaries “who do not require personal assistance during medically necessary transportation.”

Enrollees can’t request a ride directly from Lyft, the policy notes, but should continue to contact their health plan for transportation requests.

“The health care plan and/or their transportation broker will assess the member’s need and determine whether a Transportation Network Company is a viable option,” it says.

Arizona’s Medicaid program is the first in the country to partner with a ride-sharing company to offer transportation options to its members, though similar laws are on the books in Florida and Texas. Nearly a quarter of Arizona’s population is enrolled in Medicaid.

“This is a significant step forward in medical transportation services and we look forward to seeing its positive impact,” Jami Snyder, director of AHCCCS, said in a statement.

The move is part of a larger strategy by ride-sharing companies to position themselves as viable options for medical transportation, specifically for non-emergencies involving patients who do not require special assistance getting to and from appointments. Uber is in the process of applying to become a transport provider in Arizona, and Lyft said it is “actively pursuing” similar arrangements in other states.

“We are optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead to meaningfully reduce transportation as a barrier to care and promote health equity across populations, and look forward to partnering with other states to improve the lives of millions more through better transportation,” the company said in a statement.

It’s unclear how effective ride-sharing is at improving attendance rates for appointments. One study, published in 2018, found that eligible patients in Philadelphia did not significantly participate in ride-sharing and that the option “did not decrease missed primary care appointments.” But a second study, in Minnesota, found that giving patients the option to use Lyft for transport to appointments resulted in a 27 percent decrease in the no-show rate at a Minneapolis clinic while increasing revenue by $270,000.

Those results “demonstrate that strategic partnerships in health care can have a significant impact on patients’ lives,” Gyre Renwick, vice president of Lyft Business, said in a statement.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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