Lyft wants to solidify its place in healthcare. Meet its new health policy guru

Rideshare company Lyft wants to continue pushing into healthcare, particularly in Medicare and Medicaid. So, it just brought on a new executive to help the Lyft healthcare team navigate the complexities of regulations and policy. 

Nicole Cooper joined the company in July as its head of health policy after spending four years in leadership roles at UnitedHealthcare. 

Cooper, who has a master’s degree and a doctorate in public health, also has stints at the Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama administration, Humana and Intermountain Healthcare on her resume. 

Nicole Cooper
Nicole Cooper (Lyft)

She told Fierce Healthcare that in college she discovered healthcare and medicine were about more than clinicians—and was drawn to the public health work once she discovered it. 

“I discovered the field with eyes wide open,” she said, “and really at that point said to myself that I wanted to steer myself toward a career that was focused on addressing health disparities—and then later learned to appreciate that they were actually health inequities on the part of broader systems of inequality across the country.” 

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Cooper said a particular focus of her work has been health challenges and disparities in the Medicaid population, and, as such, she had been following Lyft’s foray into healthcare for some time. When the opportunity arose to bring her policy experience to the rideshare company, she jumped on it. 

Lyft has partnered with a number of states to provide nonemergency medical transport to Medicaid enrollees, and it also views Medicare Advantage as a key market for transportation services. 

As state Medicaid programs can vary widely, a key part of Cooper’s role will be spearheading the relationship building that’s necessary with state agencies, local providers and health plans. She said the Lyft team believes it can play a key role to help “facilitate the modernization of Medicaid programs across the country.” 

“We want to enter into a discussion with them really around what they see as being a proper way to modernize and open up the flexibilities that can allow for Lyft and our approach to healthcare to be a potential solution for them,” Cooper said. 

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And Lyft is now gathering the data to back up its value proposition in Medicaid. In a new study released Wednesday, Lyft offers a look at the performance of its partnership with AmeriHealth Caritas DC, which was facilitated by Access2Care. 

Lyft rides were made available to 11,400 for routine visits and urgent care, and between April 2018 and April 2019 emergency department visits dropped by 40% and ambulance utilization decreased by 12%. 

Amerigroup Tennessee, an Anthem company, similarly signed on with Lyft, launching a pilot in 2019 in Memphis. To date, it has seen a 44% increase in primary care visits and a 50% decrease in primary care gaps. 

“I see this as a huge opportunity to continue scaling investments and partnerships that have shown to be innovative and meet market needs,” Cooper said. “I also see this as work that gets us closer to solving—and I'm using air quotes here—‘solving’ the many challenges that are associated with … the social determinants of health.”