In Arizona, 23 percent of the population is enrolled in Medicaid and rideshare company Lyft is working to remove their transportation barriers.
“At Lyft, we’re constantly working to ensure access to transportation doesn’t stand in the way of people getting the health care they need,” said Lyft Southwest Regional Director Drena Kusari. “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.”
Lyft worked closely with Jami Snyder, the director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), on a policy that allows ridesharing companies to register as non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) providers.
“We are proud to be the first Medicaid program in the country to establish an innovative regulatory approach that seamlessly offers rideshare as a non-emergency medical transportation option for Medicaid beneficiaries who do not require special assistance during transport to and from medical appointments,” Snyder said. “This is a significant step forward in medical transportation services and we look forward to seeing its positive impact.”
Under the new policy, Lyft is now an enrolled Medicaid provider and the rides are covered for eligible patients to travel to and from medical appointments.
According to Lyft, modernizing NEMT through ridesharing can help Medicaid programs improve health outcomes, enhance the member experience and reduce the cost of care. In fact, the American Journal of Public Health found that modernizing NEMT nationally via rideshare could generate cost-savings of $537 million a year.
“Ridesharing is commonplace in cities across the U.S., and by applying the same technology used by everyday passengers to NEMT, we can ensure access to transportation is never a barrier to care. We are optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead to reduce transportation as a barrier and promote health equity across populations,” Kusari said.
AHCCCS Public Information Officer Heidi Capriotti said there will be no change in how members request non-emergency medical transportation. A broker will still decide which type of transportation to dispatch.
“This new transportation provider type specifically for rideshares has limited requirements on certifications or training… [Some] members might need special assistance during a nonmedical transport [and] rideshare companies won’t be dispatched to calls where members need that kind of personal attended care during a transport,” Capriotti said.
This is not the first time Lyft has worked to provide transportation for patients in need. In Oct. 2018, Lyft partnered with Banner Health to provide 1,000 free rides to mammogram appointments in Arizona throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
According to Lyft, Florida and Texas have just signed laws modernizing their Medicaid programs and the company is working with other states to expand the program.
“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,” Kusari said.
Capriotti added that now AHCCCS will be watching data to see how the policy change benefits the system-wide transportation picture.
“Anytime we can look at new innovative ways to add capacity to serve members in a way that maybe we haven’t tried before but that increases options for members is a move in the right direction,” Capriotti said.