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Ride-Hailing App Adds Features Especially for Caregivers

Uber app will let caregivers be part of three-way talk with driver, help bill insurer if covered

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AARP (Source: Shutterstock(2))

Caregivers face an especially rough road when navigating ride-hailing services designed for able-bodied people familiar with technology.

Organizing a Lyft or Uber ride on somebody else’s behalf requires communicating with the driver through your app and keeping in touch with the passenger separately. Getting insurance to cover those costs can also be a bumpy ride.

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Uber announced an initiative Wednesday called Uber Caregiver that it says will help with both of those problems, starting at an unspecified date later this summer. Caregivers will be able to use a new three-way chat in Uber’s mobile app that will connect them to drivers and notify them when care recipients communicate in-app with drivers.

It will allow users with insurance through providers that support Uber Caregiver to bill rides to their insurers as they book them, whether as caregivers or as recipients.

“We’re in active discussions with the leading health care providers in the U.S. and expect to bring them online this summer,” Uber’s announcement reads. “It is our plan with Caregiver to support customers 65-plus with Medicare Advantage, Medicaid recipients, and customers with commercial insurance from their employer.” 

Uber’s announcement follows other ride-hailing services’ steps to make themselves more accessible.

Lyft has partnerships with health care providers

Lyft, Uber’s main competitor, already works with businesses from across the country, mostly health care providers, that request, schedule and pay for rides on behalf of patients through the Lyft Concierge program, Donny Nordlicht, a Lyft spokesman, told AARP. The need could be for something as regular as kidney dialysis or as occasional as an annual checkup.

Lyft provides free or discounted rides through 211, a free referral and information line that connects older adults and others to local health and human services resources via a partnership with United Way.

Some insurance providers already reimburse rides to medical appointments. For example, Medicaid covers that under its nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT) benefit.

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Lyft partners with nine of the 10 largest NEMT brokers nationwide and nine of the 10 largest health systems, among other businesses, Nordlicht says. Among them: American Medical Response (AMR), a transportation service that operates under more than 20 brands in various cities; Access2Care; Ascension health care; Brookdale Senior Living older adult communities; CareSource, which offers Medicaid managed care plans in four states, Medicare Advantage special needs plans and other health insurance; Cityblock, which focuses on underserved communities in five states and the District of Columbia; and Modivcare, which offers transportation services in more than 30 states.​

Uber thinks caregivers can use delivery, too

Uber’s new services won’t come with a surcharge for caregivers. So even if you as a caregiver have to pay out of pocket, the service won’t cost extra.

Uber Caregiver officials envision letting people pay in-app with insurance billing for needs such as over-the-counter medicines, medical equipment and doctors’ appointments, but the announcement does not specify when those features might land. Uber already delivers prepared food from restaurants and groceries from stores in communities across the country and allows businesses and others to send an inexpensive package of 30 pounds or less to a waiting recipient.

In 2023, Uber added an option to bypass its app and call for a ride, which Lyft also has for Lively jitterbug phone users who dial zero for the operator on their phones. Uber’s latest announcement invites caregivers to register for a notification when their insurance carrier supports Caregiver, but they won’t have to wait to use the booking and chat features when the service launches.

Arranging transportation can ease a pain point

The time and money needed to provide transportation can be a challenge as caregivers juggle jobs and help their loved ones. In 2021, the most recent information available, AARP estimated that caregivers spent an average of $7,242 in annual out-of-pocket costs on top of a total $600 billion in unpaid labor.

Learn online

Senior Planet from AARP has occasional online classes on using ride-hailing apps.

1. Go to the Senior Planet classes page.

2. Type ride hailing in the 🔍 Search for classes box.

3. Click on the red Find Classes button.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see a class offered. Check back in a few weeks, look for a location near you under the In-Person Classes drop-down menu, or call the Senior Planet Hotline number listed on the page to request the topic.

“Rides and transport were a real point of difficulty for me as a caregiver,” Kate Washington, author of Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America, says of her difficulties arranging trips for her then-husband as he struggled through a near-fatal case of lymphoma that left him temporarily blind.

“In terms of getting transport costs covered, I never found a way to do so,” Washington says, adding that her attempts to get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses “never worked.”

Uber’s announcement notes that Jeremy Hintz, head of engineering for Uber Health, experienced this problem in 2022 after his grandfather had a stroke.

“My mom stepped in to become the primary caregiver for both of them [his grandfather and grandmother], and I saw firsthand the stress and financial burden that comes with being a caregiver,” Hintz says in the announcement.

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Some options need notice far in advance

Other transportation options for caregivers include free paratransit services operated by municipalities and shared demand-response services that must be booked in advance. Local taxi operators are often available when public transit isn’t practical. The Administration for Community Living, a federal office within the Department of Health and Human Services, maintains an Eldercare Locator site and toll-free phone number at 800-677-1116 that can help caregivers find alternatives near them.

But it can all be overwhelming to figure out in practice.

“Anything that eases the day-to-day stressors on caregivers can be a win,” Washington says. “Caregiving necessarily comes with strain since it means a loved one is ill or struggling or declining. But those little extra things — transport, the frustration of paperwork, etc. — can really push caregivers over the edge of stress.”

Contributing: Linda Dono

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