MA in the News
May 30, 2019

Lyft Hails Medicare As Next Profitable Ride

By Bruce Japsen 

Lyft is signing new contracts and targeting a booming number of Medicare beneficiaries choosing private Advantage plans as a lucrative new growth area for the ride-sharing company.

New rules that allow health insurance companies to include more supplemental benefits in their Medicare Advantage plans is opening the door to Lyft and rivals to have more of their services woven into benefits for next year. Health plan bids to participate in Medicare Advantage for 2020 are due Monday, June. 3.

“We expect to be working with the majority of the largest MA plans by 2020,” said Lyft’s vice president of healthcare Megan Callahan, who was hired last year to lead the company’s growing healthcare businesses.

Medicare Advantage plans contract with the federal government to provide extra benefits and services to seniors, such as disease management and nurse help hotlines, with some even providing vision and dental care and wellness programs.

But the ability of Medicare Advantage plans to integrate ride-sharing services into bids is taking off given new rules announced last year “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.”

As health insurers move away from fee-for-service medicine to value-based care and population health models that make sure patients are getting quality care in the right place and at the right time, ride-sharing companies say they can have a key role.

“MA plans are recognizing the benefits that transportation, specifically rideshare, provides, not only from a retention and loyalty perspective, but also to get MA members appropriately diagnosed and treated to prevent costly progression of disease and worse health outcomes,” Callahan said. “Our exclusive broker partnerships enable us to access this new market seamlessly (such as) expanding our work with LogistiCare to encompass certain Humana Medicare Advantage plans.”

Lyft has other Medicare Advantage relationships with several Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans through the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute and Cigna-Healthspring, the Medicare Advantage business of Cigna.

The push into Medicare Advantage comes as Lyft rivals including Uber and Ford Motor Company’s GoRide Health invest into expansion for non-emergency medical transportation services.

Lyft says its platform is helpful for older Medicare beneficiaries because it allows the health plan or patient’s medical care provider to hail a ride for the health plan enrollee if they don’t have the Lyft app or a smartphone.

“By adding Lyft to its MA transportation benefit, CareMore Health was able to reduce its average ride cost by 39 percent and lower wait times by 45 percent,” Lyft said on its web site touting benefits of the relationship with Anthem’s CareMore business. “These partnerships demonstrate the considerable potential to create improved health outcomes and cost savings as a result of better access to transportation, through innovative plan design for both commercial and MA plans.”

The market is growing rapidly with more than 10,000 aging American baby boomers turning 65 and becoming eligible for Medicare, and more of them are choosing privately run Medicare Advantage plans. About 35% of Medicare beneficiaries, or some 20 million Americans, are enrolled in MA plans, but L.E.K Consulting last year projected Medicare Advantage enrollment to rise to 38 million or 50% market penetration by the end of 2025.

Health insurers say they cannot comment on the bids they are submitting next week for 2020 until they hear a response from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to those bids near the end of the summer.

But health insurers say transportation services are increasingly critical to getting their health plan enrollees to appointments and access to care by addressing social determinants of health including the lack of a car or the ability to drive to a treatment.

“Anthem’s affiliated health plans have provided non-emergency, medically related transportation to our consumers for years, even before CMS’ increased flexibilities for 2019 and 2020 MA plans,” Anthem, which operates CareMore and operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states, said through a spokesman. “Providing access to innovative MA plans is part of our whole-person approach to healthcare because we believe these offerings will help consumers lead healthier lives. We have worked with transportation organizations, such as Lyft, in the past and regularly examine decisions around the transportation partners separately from the decision to offer these benefits.”

For more information on healthcare, read Bruce Japsen’s book, Inside Obamacare: From Barack And Michelle To The Affordable Care Act. 

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