- While millions of people have become insured under the Affordable Care Act, many still face barriers to healthcare because of a lack of transportation.
- The federal government spends an estimated $2.7 billion annually on nonemergency medical transportation, a figure that is expected grow under Medicaid expansion.
- But those costs could be reined in with rideshare programs like Uber and Lyft, an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes.
With transportation benefits growing under Medicaid expansion and the move to managed care, more insurers are likely to look to rideshare programs as a way to get into the game.
Patients with chronic diseases are most likely to have transportation problems, causing them to miss appointments and have poorer outcomes, the article notes. CMS as well as some state Medicaid programs and a number of private insurers offer free or subsidized nonemergency medical transportation to enrollees.
In 2016, commercial Medicare Advantage plans offered nonemergency medical transportation to 69.5% of their beneficiaries. However, a government report found numerous challenges with current Medicare and Medicaid ride services, including rising costs, program integrity and vendor oversight, the authors write.
MedTrans Network partnered with Lyft to provide rides for its ambulatory New York City customers using the app maker’s Concierge web-based dashboard. Lyft also has a pilot in California with CareMore Health System, which offers Medicare Advantage plans. Under the pilots, average per-ride costs fell 32.4%, from $31.54 to $21.32, the article notes.
Average wait times also dropped by 30%, from 12.5 minutes to 8.8 minutes, and user satisfaction rose to 80%, the authors say.
Meanwhile, Uber teamed up with a company called Circulation to fulfill third-party ride requests for health-related concerns, the authors say. And MedStar Health began offering Uber rides to nonemergency patients needing transportation to one of its Washington, D.C., or Maryland hospitals via a “Ride with Uber” button the MedStar website.