Why Lyft is making Medicare Advantage a key focus of its healthcare work

Lyft sees a lot of promise in Medicare Advantage as a central target for its healthcare services. (Lyft)

Ride-hailing service Lyft has been in the healthcare space for the past several years, and it sees Medicare Advantage plans as a key demographic for its health platform.

On a call with reporters on Monday, Megan Callahan, vice president for healthcare at Lyft, said its first MA partner was CareMore, a subsidiary of Anthem. Their partnership, which dates back to 2016, has led to beneficiaries’ ride costs going down by 39% and wait times decreasing by 40%.

These successes, Callahan said, have led CareMore to book 90% of needed nonemergency transportation through Lyft. She said that one-third of Lyft’s passengers report using to the service to get a ride for medical care.

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“Lyft is in a unique position to help Medicare Advantage plans,” she said.

RELATED: Patient transport—Using Uber, Lyft reduces wait times, boosts care access, saves money

Callahan was one of several speakers on the call, which was hosted by the Better Medicare Alliance to spotlight the recent expansion of supplemental benefits in MA. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in its draft call letter for the 2020 plan year, said it wants to offer MA plans greater flexibility to offer supplemental benefits to beneficiaries with chronic illness.

That proposal comes on the heels of CMS’ decision to allow Medicare Advantage plans to offer supplemental benefits for 2019.

James Michel, policy director for the alliance, said on the call that while the group is excited for CMS to expand these benefit options, there’s a catch—the agency isn’t offering additional funding to MA plans to offer them.

So, plan sponsors will need to be creative and harness data on their beneficiaries to determine the most effective supplemental services for their members, he said.

“Plans will probably have to be very thoughtful about how they offer these benefits,” Michel said.

RELATED: Lyft announces integration with Allscripts EHR system, allowing 180,000 doctors to hail rides for patients

The expansion of supplemental benefits in Medicare Advantage is a jumping off point to expand these benefits elsewhere, including potentially to traditional fee-for-service Medicare, Allyson Schwartz, president and CEO of the alliance, said.

Lyft has designed its platform with seniors in mind, Callahan said, and allows the partner insurer or provider to call a ride directly for the beneficiary, in case they don’t have a smartphone or know how to use Lyft’s app themselves.

Callahan said that ongoing research in partnership with the AARP and UnitedHealthcare found that seniors with unlimited access to Lyft covered by their insurance reported a 30% boost in physical activity and a 90% increase in quality of life.

Lyft also sees significant potential in tailoring its healthcare platform to meet the needs of certain patients, such as those in need of dialysis care.

“This could be a game-changer for Medicare program,” Callahan said.

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