For the last year, both Lyft and Uber have been working with healthcare providers and insurers offering rides to doctors’ offices. Last week, Lyft announced that it is expanding its partnerships with health care providers by partnering with Allscripts to “integrate its platform into the daily routines of 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 physician practices and 180,000 physicians, reaching an estimated 7 million patients.” USA Today.

Both – Uber and Lyft – offer “healthcare rides” in rural and urban areas, free of charge to the patients (billing healthcare providers or insurers). Most of the people, who need transportation to their providers, are on federally funded insurances and therefore issues with kickbacks may come into play. The OIG, however, codified Local Transportation safe-harbors to exempt certain free or discounted transportation programs if they comply with the following requirements:

  1. The program is applied uniformly and consistently and does not take into consideration the past or anticipated volume or value of federal health care program business.

  2. The transportation is not provided via air, luxury, or ambulance-level transportation.

  3. The program is not publicly marketed or advertised, no marketing of health care items and services occurs during the transportation.

  4.  The drivers are not paid on a per-beneficiary-transported basis.

  5. Only established patients shall participate in the program.

  6. The transportation is available only within 25 miles, or 50 miles in rural areas.

  7. The transportation is provided to obtain medically necessary items and services.

  8. The provider bears the costs.

The OIG’s Final Rule codifying Local Transportation safe-harbors.

If done correctly, Uber and Lyft have a huge market to target. However, to alleviate the problem with access to care, we need more than a ride. And how about TeleHealth and home visits?