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Senior & Disability Services Print

Growing Rideshare and Ride-Hail Trends To Get Patients to Their Doctor Appointments

Without reliable transportation, people may decide to delay or do without medical care. But there are options to help you get to your appointments so that you can get the care you need when you need it.

Ridesharing v. Ride-hailing

Carpooling has been used for decades to help get multiple people to the same spot with one vehicle. Rideshare is a carpool with other patients to your doctor’s office.

In locations where it is too challenging to coordinate patients’ locations and schedules for rideshare, ride-hail is an option. Ride-hail services have traditionally been taxis and have expanded to companies like Uber and Lyft that you can request by phone.

Emerging Ride-hail Partnerships

Over the past year, ride-hailing services and health care systems have begun to form partnerships.

MedStar Health, a nonprofit health care system in Maryland partnered with Uber in January. Patients can access the ride-hailing service through the health care system’s web site. In addition, Medicaid patients, who may not have access to the Uber app, can also arrange a ride by calling the hospital’s patient advocates.

Hackensack UMC, a hospital in New Jersey, the Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida and Relatient, a health care communication company have also announced partnerships with Uber in the past year. 

Veyo, a San Diego startup that is focused on non-emergency medical transportation, is now offering a ride-hail-like technology for health care appointments in Idaho, Arizona, Texas, Colorado and California.

Earlier this year, ride-hail service Lyft partnered with National Medtrans Network in New York, California and Nevada to provide rides to non-emergency medical appointments. The partnership provided 2,500 rides per week in New York City, mostly to seniors.

Lyft also introduced a third-party web request product to allow its partners in the network to request rides for their patients. No smartphones required. A requester simply inputs the passenger’s name and pickup and drop-off location, and a Lyft driver will be matched to give the ride.

The Return of House Calls

In some cities, the roles are reversed. Instead of a service that can bring you to the doctor, there is a service that brings the doctor to you.

Heal and Pager are two companies that work kind of like Uber for health care.

You can use an app on your smartphone to request medical service. A nearby doctor or nurse practitioner will respond and come to your location. 

Is It Safe for My Kids to Use?

Not many options, if any, exist to transport minors unaccompanied by an adult to visit a doctor.

The Missouri Department of Social Services states that, for non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), passengers under 18 should be accompanied by an adult.

Uber and Lyft both have policies against drivers transporting unaccompanied minors. The ride-hailing company Sidecar does not specifically say if unaccompanied minors may use the service. 

Despite the policy, drivers are reporting an increase in parents requesting a ride for unaccompanied minors. Parents should be aware of the policies prohibiting unaccompanied minors and understand that drivers can refuse to accept an unaccompanied minor as a passenger.

In addition, your child may not be able to go to a doctor appointment alone. Check with your doctor to see if a parent needs to be present at the time of appointment. 

But Lyft isn’t available where My Parents Live

It’s true. Lyft, Uber and Veyo don’t operate in every city. So how can you find out what your options for transportation are?

Rides In Sight helps seniors find and narrow their options. 

Rides In Sight provides information about transportation options throughout the United States. The database was compiled by the Independent Transportation Network of America. 

You can search by your city and even limit your search by criteria such as programs for veterans, programs that accept Medicaid and transportation specifically for medical appointments. The site will then pull up a list of all your available options. 

Options can range from Uber to cab companies to special programs operated through city government. The list will also give you information about each transportation provider including if they offer door-to-door service, if you need to schedule your ride in advance and cost.

For those without access to the Internet, you can also call the Rides In Sight hotline. Operators are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST).

Can I get Reimbursed for the Travel Expense?

Medicaid does cover non-emergency medical transportation. But, while state Medicaid programs are required to provide transportation benefits, state agencies have the final say in how those benefits are reimbursed. 

Medicare does not typically cover non-emergency medical transportation. Medicare may cover non-emergency transportation if such transportation is needed and the use of any other transportation method could endanger your health. Medicare may cover limited, medically necessary, non-emergency ambulance transportation if you have a written order from your doctor.

If you have a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, also known as Medicare Part C, non-emergency transportation may be covered. MA plans must cover everything Original Medicare covers, but often MA plans expand on that and cover more services. 

If you have an MA plan, contact your provider directly to find out if your policy covers non-emergency transportation.

How do I Know if it’s a Non-Emergency or an Emergency?

But users should still remember these services are designed for non-emergencies. If you have a stomach bug, need a couple of stitches or even just want to get your annual flu shot, these services can deliver help right to your door.  But in an emergency, you should still call an ambulance or head to the nearest emergency room.

So how do you know? The U.S. Library of Medicine provides an overview of what constitutes an emergency. We also created an emergency cheat sheet to help.

If you’re not sure, start by calling your doctor’s office. Many insurance companies and hospitals also provide a nurse hotline. In either case, you can describe your symptoms or injury and get advice on the best way to proceed.

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