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Lyft Will Start Taking TennCare Patients To The Doctor

Hannah Norman/KHN Illustration

TennCare will soon cover ride-hailing services to ferry patients to and from doctors visits. On Thursday, Lyft announced an expansion of its medical transports in five states, including Tennessee.

Medicaid programs like TennCare already fund transportation for patients. But many have complained of rigid schedules and rules, like not allowing parents to bring along their kids. The issue was a key takeaway in Gov. Bill Lee’s health care listening tour over the summer.

Megan Callahan, vice president of health care at Lyft, says her drivers can’t accommodate every patient with special medical needs.


"The patient has to be able to get in and out of the car," she tells WPLN.

The drivers also aren't drug-tested and trained in first aid, like most medical transport companies require. But for most patients, the service offers a much faster and more flexible option.

"Because of Lyft’s platform and technology, we can get to a rider within three to seven minutes on average," Callahan says. "So the on-demand experience is certainly a big thing we bring to the table.”

Lyft’s partnership with Medicaid programs does not require patients to have a smart phone. Rather, everyone calls a central office — whether to hail a ride immediately or schedule one for later.

Arizona, Texas and Florida have already launched partnerships with Lyft in recent months. The company says it's too early to report on whether the program has been a success.

Georgia, Michigan, Virginia and Missouri are also starting programs. Some states are opening the service to all Medicaid patients.  Tennessee is beginning with Memphis for the next year but has plans to expand.

"We look forward to seeing the positive impact the Lyft partnership will have on our members and supporting more opportunities to address transportation needs in the future," TennCare chief medical officer Victor Wu says in a statement.

Lyft is working under Tennessee Carriers Inc., which has a contract for non-emergency medical transport with TennCare. The arrangement is similar to Arizona's. There, the tranportation brokerage company told Kaiser Health Newsthat 15% of rides by Medicaid patients over the summer relied on Uber and Lyft.

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