Lyft is now a covered option for some Medicaid beneficiaries in Arizona, the on-demand transportation company said Wednesday.
That means eligible Medicaid beneficiaries in the state will be able to use ride-sharing services from Lyft to travel to and from medical appointments.
Lyft's new Medicaid provider status in Arizona is the result of a policy change the state's Medicaid agency finalized in May. Under the new policy, the agency will allow ride-sharing companies to provide non-emergency transportation services for beneficiaries who can't secure their own transportation to medical appointments.
Arizona's Medicaid program, called the Health Care Cost Containment System, is the first in the nation to do so, said Jami Snyder, the agency's director.
"This is a significant step forward in medical transportation services and we look forward to seeing its positive impact," Snyder said in a statement.
Eligible Medicaid beneficiaries will continue to request transportation services through their health plan or its transportation broker—not directly through Lyft.
Arizona's move is part of a growing push to increase transportation options for patients in need.
Since 2016, Lyft has struck partnerships with big players in healthcare, including not-for-profit health system Ascension, electronic health records vendor Allscripts, national health insurance federation Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and, in Arizona, Medical Transportation Brokerage of Arizona. The company said it's currently exploring similar Medicaid opportunities in other states, including Florida and Texas.
But while ride-sharing sounds like a promising solution to patients' transportation challenges, early research is mixed on its success.
A 12-month pilot using Lyft for non-emergency medical transportation at Hennepin Healthcare led to a 27% reduction in the Minneapolis-based internal medicine clinic's no-show rate and increased the clinic's revenue by $270,000, according to results released last year by Lyft and its partner on the pilot project, non-emergency healthcare transportation company Hitch Health.
Yet a separate study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine that same year, found providing ride-sharing services did not improve the no-show rate for primary-care appointments among Medicaid patients in West Philadelphia, with the no-show rate among patients offered free rides 36.5%, compared with 36.7% for those who weren't offered free rides.
This hasn't stopped ride-sharing companies from building up their healthcare business.
Lyft hired its first vice president of healthcare in November, and early last year the company's main competitor, Uber, debuted Uber Health—a service that lets healthcare providers schedule rides for patients. And Lyft and Uber have both partnered with existing non-emergency medical transportation providers, which historically contracted with taxi companies.
"We are optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead to meaningfully reduce transportation as a barrier to care," Lyft said in a statement.