Are Uber and Lyft Ready for Medicare?

“What?!!! You better get with it girl. It’s what people do nowadays.”

“Oh really! And I thought I was outside the modern world!”

Those were the comments I got when researching use by Medicare managed care plans of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

I asked people-in-the-know about aspects of Medicare Advantage plans offering this sort of transportation as a supplemental benefit, mostly to those 65 and over. And to some, I made a confession: “I’ve never used a ride-sharing service.”
Hence the shocked reaction.

That all changed last week, a couple of days after the story ran. A co-worker and I went to a meet-and-greet with people from a health-related trade group.

“We’ll take Uber,” my colleague told me.

A minute after he put in the request, he showed me his phone. It indicated that our driver was in a black Kia and gave his license plate.

A map showed where the car was waiting. It also showed that the driver had 1,621 rides under his belt and had a 4.91 favorable rating.

We got in and the phone said we’d be at our destination in 20 minutes.

Chatting up our driver, he said his name was Ali, he also drove for Lyft, and when not driving, worked in marketing/public relations.

Ali said he also writes articles for AARP publications. But would that qualify him to drive for the retired/Medicare population?

Georgia Burke, an attorney with the nonprofit Justice in Aging, isn’t sure. Beneficiaries who need this service often have some kind of disability, in that they can’t drive themselves, she told me. Many need door-to-door service.

Drivers, many of whom drive on and off during the day, need training, she said.

The companies want to get into the market “so they’re saying some of the right things,” she said.

Uber in March, for example, introduced Uber Health. “The dashboard allows healthcare professionals to order rides for patients going to and from the care they need,” the company said.

But Burke told me, “We don’t think the quality is there consistently.”

Medicare plans would have to undertake a high level of oversight to ensure that training has been delivered and the right vehicles are available, Burke said.

Read my story on ride-sharing by Medicare plans here.

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