Lyft’s aggressive pursuit of the healthcare market accelerated on Thursday, when the US ride-hailing giant revealed expanded partnerships with payers Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) and Humana.
The collaborations allow Lyft access to provide nonemergency medical transport (NEMT) to a subset of BCBS and Humana members enrolled in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, a type of health insurance offered by private insurers to consumers over the age of 65 as an alternative to the government’s traditional Medicare program.
Lyft also announced new tools to facilitate NEMT for older consumers — who tend to have lower adoption of smartphones — including automated phone calls for users without a mobile phone.
Lyft’s move into the MA market builds on its significant momentum in the healthcare space. Lyft — like Uber and Ford— has tapped NEMT as a new growth opportunity. And the firm’s expanded aggressively over the last year, building out its healthcare team and forming new partnerships with health systems and health IT firms. Now, Lyft likely sees MA as a reliable channel to expand bookings: MA enrollment grew around 6% year-over-year (YoY) in 2018 and is projected to increase by 11.5% YoY to reach an all-time high of 22.6 million members in 2019.
Lyft’s senior-focused tools should help private insurers improve outcomes among a costly demographic. Targeting NEMT services toward older members makes sense for payers, as transportation as a barrier to care — which causes about 3.6 million missed medical appointments in the US annually and can lead to poor health outcomes — tends to disproportionately affect seniors, per a PMC study. Moreover, addressing older cohorts’ health needs is particularly important to payers’ bottom lines: US consumers age 65 and above account for only 15% of the population but make up 34% of health spending.
Recent policy changes encourage insurers to treat the full spectrum of consumer health — which should lure a host of other fringe healthcare players into the MA market. Lyft called out recent legislation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as a catalyst for its move into the MA space. That’s because over the last year, the CMS tweaked Medicare requirements to make it easier for payers to receive compensation for providing a broader array of MA benefits, like medical transport and telehealth.
This policy change is part of broader industry interest in addressing the socioeconomic factors — like diet, income, and social isolation — that determine roughly 80% of health outcomes. As healthcare payment models make it more lucrative to provide supplemental benefits that address these social determinants of health, we’ll likely see insurers tap the services of a range of players on the edge of healthcare. We could see meals on wheels services, broader applications of telehealth, and in-home care services become routine offerings in MA plans, for example.