One of the latest additions to Medicare is the inclusion of rideshare transportation for customers via the Medicare Advantage plans. This opens up millions of potential rides to Uber and Lyft as well as solidifies their position in the transportation market.
Only last week the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) stated on their site that they were adding access to transportation for "reinterpreting the standards for health-related supplemental benefits in the Medicare Advantage program to include additional services that increase health and improve quality of life." CMS has redefined its primary health related basket of products, and they write on their site that "Under the new definition, the agency will allow supplemental benefits if they compensate for physical impairments, diminish the impact of injuries or health conditions, and/or reduce avoidable emergency room utilization."
In response to the growing rideshare popularity with healthcare and medical insurance providers, Kris Haltmeyer from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association stated that "This new flexibility will allow Medicare Advantage plans to broaden the scope of services tailored to assist patient's transportation to medical appointments."
According to statistical reports, around 20 million members of Medicare are enrolled in their MA plans, and this will rise to over 38 million within the next 7 years. The MA plans are covered by Federal contracts that support Medicare's disease management and nurse help services; some also include wellness and dental benefits.
This latest addition, which was lobbied by Uber and Lyft intensively, will completely integrate rideshare within the Medicare system. Medicare follows other health insurance companies such as Blue Cross that already works in collaboration with Lyft.
Both Lyft and Uber have been increasing their intense marketing to the medial insurance sector to stitch their presence into the fabric of American life and culture. The concept is to make both companies part and parcel of a standard service provided by all medical insurance providers and as such, concrete their presence in the American infrastructure for years to come.
Last year, Blue Cross notified its clients that Lyft would be a "no-cost" service, providing the insured free transportation to their medical appointments.
The MA guidance that was just released is an addition to the growing health and medical service provider platforms that are collaborating with Uber and Lyft.
Lauren Belive, Lyft director of federal government relations, told the press that "This guidance demonstrates how serious CMS is in giving health plans the tools they need to address the social determinants of health - of which transportation is foundational. This new flexibility will allow us to partner even more dynamically with MA plans, to not just help seniors suffering from chronic health conditions get to their health appointments, but to more broadly leverage our platform to remove transportation barriers and encourage healthy and active living."
Any health insurer within the MA system must submit t heir annual budget bids to the Federal government by 4th June 2018, notifying the CMS what additional advantages they will provide in 2019. This process seals any rideshare deals for years to come. Since rideshare is part of the MA package, both healthcare providers and Lyft expect that the effectivity of the new system will increase enable close to 99% of all appointments to be met due to the free access a CMS client has to a personalized transportation solution.
Belive added that "We are dedicated to improving the lives of seniors with the world's best transportation - whether providing rides to bring elderly passengers to and from health appointments or providing transit solutions that enable increased independence and reduced isolation."
It doesn't matter if rideshare is regulated or if it goes AV, both Uber and Lyft hve tapped into a national resource line that will secure their existence for years to come. I expect that their next target is the VA.