Uber, Lyft may be used to transport Florida Medicaid patients in nonemergency cases

Two bills are making their way through the Florida House of Representatives that would allow Uber and Lyft to offer Medicaid patients nonemergency medical transportation, according to Florida Watchdog.

The ride-sharing services would transport Medicaid patients to and from hospitals and provider offices to reduce healthcare costs. Uber and Lyft would contract with managed care providers who would use their Medicaid funding to pay for the rides.

Patients would schedule the rides through their provider rather than through the ride-sharing app. Patients would then receive a text message of the make and model of the care, the driver's name and the estimated wait and travel time for the ride, according to the report.

Proponents of the bill argue transportation is often a challenge for Medicaid patients, requiring them to spend hours on mass transit. Studies suggested transportation-related obstacles cause Medicaid recipients to delay or forge care.

A Tampa Bay Times investigation uncovered one of the state's transportation providers, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, pays nearly $1 million annually for patients who need nonemergency medical transportation.

Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital also must delay discharging patients because they do not have the resources to get home.

Lyft and Uber have both unveiled plans to provide medical transportation. In Florida, Uber partnered with Baycare in Tampa, and Lyft has teamed up with nine health systems and 10 nonemergency medical transportation firms nationwide.

A Lyft survey of 30,000 passengers showed 29 percent have used the ride-sharing app for "healthcare trips." The survey also indicated three-quarters of the healthcare passengers said appointments are "less of a hassle since they started using the app," Florida Watchdog reports.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said without Lyft they would be less likely to show up for appointments, and 36 percent said they visit urgent care centers less frequently because of the ride-sharing app.

One of the bills has been approved by three congressional committees and could be approved by the House this week. The other has been cleared by two committees but has not advanced out of the Senate Rules Committee.

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