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Uber Health Extends Medical Transportation to TX Medicaid Members

The partnership will boost medical transportation across 4.4 million Medicaid members, addressing a key social determinant of health.

A medical transportation partnership between Uber Health and the Texas Medicaid program is set to expand access to care to nearly 4.4 million people, helping to address transportation as a leading social determinant of health, the pair announced.

The partnership will allow Medicaid members in Texas to order rides to and from medical appointments via Uber Health and have that benefit covered as part of their Medicaid plan. This comes after 2019 legislation, spearheaded by Texas’ State House of Representatives Speaker Dade Phelan, added medical transportation as a Medicaid benefit.

“Working with innovative, forward-thinking rideshare companies allows the State of Texas to be more efficient with our budget,” Phelan said in a press release.

“The truth is that spending our money on a ride with Uber Health can be a more cost-effective use of our Medicaid dollars, and allows us to cut down on fraud, waste, and abuse while creating more equitable patient outcomes. We’ve already begun to see healthcare organizations in the state report a serious decrease in their no-show rates.”

This move comes as healthcare professionals across the country work to address social determinants of health, or the social factors that affect an individual’s ability to attain and maintain wellness.

Transportation is a critical social determinant of health, as Phelan acknowledged. Individuals without cars, without the ability to drive, or another obstacle getting themselves to the medical office simply cannot attend their appointments. June 2020 data showed that almost six million people in the US missed a medical appointment in the previous year because they did not have medical transportation access.

And that missed medical appointment can be costly. A patient whose chronic illness becomes unmanaged or whose acute care encounter is not check in upon may deteriorate, leading to higher acuity—and higher cost—treatment.

The partnership with Uber Health will streamline the medical transportation benefit because it has become ubiquitous in the US, according to Caitlin Donovan, the global head of Uber Health.

"Too often limited provider availability impacts access to care. In allowing health systems, brokers, health plans, and other partners to leverage Uber Health's platform, Texas will open the door for millions of residents to better access the care they need every day,” Donovan explained in a press release

“Uber Health's logistics platform is uniquely positioned to make requesting transportation or deliveries easy, helping our partners and population health managers extend their reach in addressing social determinants of health and improving the overall health of communities."

Uber Health currently also has Medicaid non-emergency medical transportation contracts out in states like Arizona, Indiana, and Florida, the company said. Part of its Medicaid offerings also include meal and item delivery, helping to close food security gaps, as well.

This announcement follows a strong rise for Uber in the medical space. Before developing its offshoot Uber Health, the rideshare company quickly stepped in to support NEMT needs for certain healthcare providers, health insurance plans, and third-party NEMT brokers.

At the 2018 HIMSS conference, Uber unveiled Uber Health, an endeavor that built out application programming interfaces (APIs) to make it easier for healthcare organizations and payers to integrate Uber into their own health IT suites and coordinate rides for patients who need them.

Since then, Uber Health and its competitor, Lyft, have worked to fill in the transportation gap in healthcare.

Recently, Lyft stepped in to address transportation barriers to COVID-19 vaccine appointments. The company build out a program with Delta and Hilton to allow rewards members to donate a Lyft ride to a vaccine appointment and earn extra rewards points.

Uber also launched a program to give people rides to COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Uber and Walgreens formed a partnership to get people rides to their vaccine appointments at Walgreens, with Walgreens giving a one-click option to schedule a ride when a patient schedules her shot with the retail chain.

“Transportation should never be a barrier to health care. We look forward to building on this exciting new partnership with Walgreens, harnessing the power of the Uber platform to help connect more people with vaccines, as we all work together to help end this pandemic,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber CEO, said in a statement at the time.

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