Lyft partnership takes aim at ambulance fraud

A popular ridesharing app that has emerged as a 21st century alternative to taxis is getting into the medical transportation business, and it could help stem the tide of ambulance fraud.

The ride-sharing app called Lyft recently announced a partnership with National Medtrans Network in New York City to provide non-emergency transportation to seniors. Although Lyft is typically accessed through a smartphone app, the company has introduced a new "third-party web request product" called "Concierge" that will allow provider partners to request rides for elderly patients who don't own a smartphone.

Although the partnership is expected to offer better and more convenient access to care and prevent seniors from missing medical appointments, the initiative could also help reduce ambulance transportation fraud, according to the website Fast Company.

"Lyft will help by providing real-time reporting," Lyft's director of enterprise partnerships Amit Patel told the website. "There will be no ambiguity as to whether a ride was completed or not."

Ambulance services contributed to as much as $350 million in fraudulent Medicare billing each year, often targeting dialysis patients who need treatment three times a week, but are healthy enough to drive themselves. In September, an Office of Inspector General report found that Medicare spent more than $30 million in the first half of 2012 on ambulance transportation for patients who never received care at an origin or destination facility.

Healthcare providers and ambulance companies are seeing increased scrutiny in an areas that is "ripe with abuse," healthcare attorney Sean McKenna said in an exclusive interview with FierceHealthPayer: AntiFraud. Over the last year, the government has established precertification programs in states with high rates of questionable ambulance billing, although critics argue that the program has detrimental effects on access to care.

To learn more:
- here's the Lyft announcement
- read the Fast Company article