Arizona Medicaid to offer beneficiaries ride-sharing with Lyft for nonemergency transport 

Arizona’s Medicaid program will cover Lyft's ride-sharing service as a nonemergency medical transport (NEMT) option, the tech company announced Wednesday.

Lyft worked with officials within the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to update policies around NEMT coverage. The policy updates were finalized in May, paving the way for the coverage updates. 

It’s the first such agreement between a national ride-share platform and a state Medicaid program. Lyft said in its announcement that it’s working on similar arrangements in other states including Texas and Florida—which have also adopted NEMT coverage changes in Medicaid. 

"At Lyft, we’re constantly working to ensure access to transportation doesn’t stand in the way of people getting the healthcare they need," Megan Callahan, vice president of healthcare at Lyft, told FierceHealthcare. "Too many Americans are confronted with barriers when they need to see a physician, and without adequate access, this causes missed appointments, delayed diagnoses and often worsening of existing health conditions."

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Both Lyft and ride-sharing rival Uber have made a strong push into the healthcare space, bolstered by data that suggest patients are already using these platforms regularly to get to doctors' appointments and other nonemergency care. 

Amid talk in the industry of addressing the social determinants of care, ride-sharing platforms offer an opportunity to address transportation, a key one. Research shows that access to ride-shares can reduce wait times for care and reduce costs by improving access. 

Regulators at the federal level have also opened doors for these companies to grow their healthcare business, as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is allowing for greater use of supplemental benefits in Medicare Advantage—including transportation. 

In its announcement, Lyft notes that a March study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that offering ride-share as a NEMT option nationwide could save $537 million a year in healthcare costs. 

RELATED: Wanted—Clinicians to help Uber grow its healthcare platform 

About 23% of Arizona residents are enrolled in Medicaid, offering a large consumer base for Lyft’s services, according to the announcement. Jami Snyder, director of the state’s Medicaid program, said in a statement that officials are proud to be residents of the first state to integrate ride-share into its NEMT coverage. 

Lyft said it was “optimistic” about other states taking similar regulatory action to offer ride-sharing in Medicaid.

“This is a significant step forward in medical transportation services and we look forward to seeing its positive impact,” Snyder said.