HLTH22: Uber Health charts expansion into employer market

LAS VEGAS—Uber Health is expanding its platforms into the employer market, the company announced this week at the HLTH conference.

Caitlin Donovan, global head of Uber Health, told Fierce Healthcare the lessons learned in Medicaid and Medicare Advantage (MA) are applicable in the employer space, too. The challenge then becomes making the pitch to those firms.

Medicaid has covered nonemergency medical transport in some form since 1966, and the return on investment has been clearly established in MA. Employers are a bit behind the curve on this, Donovan said.

"For an employer population, this data exists," she said, "but I think employers are just starting to look at it."

For example, Uber has found that in Medicaid, its services can play a key role in addressing absenteeism, as it makes it far easier for people to reach appointments without needing to take much time off of work. Getting people to their medical visits also leads to better management of chronic conditions, which can reduce lost productivity.

This thinking also applies in the employer market, she said, as many companies employ lower-wage workers who may be less able to take time off. It can also serve as a boon to employees who may be the primary caregiver for a friend or family member, allowing them to schedule transport to doctors' visits.

Keeping people happy on the job is key to maintaining a thriving workforce, she said.

Uber Health typically stands up three types of programs, Donovan said. The obvious use case is in closing gaps in care, as getting people to necessary appointments can prevent more serious diseases, better manage their needs and improve medication adherence.

Uber's platform can make it easier for people who need frequent visits to their physicians as well, such as people undergoing chemotherapy or dialysis.

However, the company also does work in benefits administration and network design, which fit neatly under the employer umbrella.

"I think that really applies well to an employer population," she said.

The goal in tackling benefit design, Donovan said, is to have a plan in place for multiple coverage scenarios. She offered an example of a patient treated by a client contracted with Uber who was being managed in a value-based care approach. The patient, who was dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, needed a trip to the doctor, but as it was across state lines Medicaid would not cover it and their Medicare benefits were exhausted.

The Uber ride was not provided because of this coverage gap, and the patient later had an acute event that required a far more costly ambulance ride and hospital stay, Donovan said.

In working with clients on benefit design, the Uber Health team is looking to prevent those types of gaps.

"It was the wrong thing to do for the patient, and the wrong thing to do for the system," Donovan said, "and it was all because of improper benefit design."