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Jeff Brandes, Megan Callahan: Without transportation, health care is out of reach for many

Who knows how many people could be helped by the next great concept?

The global threat of coronavirus has appropriately captured our focus and attention, but it’s important to remember that even before this crisis emerged, millions of Floridians lived with significant health conditions that require regular medical attention. Those conditions — and the treatments they require — haven’t gone away during this historic public health crisis. In many cases, they’ve become even more urgent.

Unfortunately, far too many of our neighbors struggle under the best of circumstances to access reliable transportation. Without transportation, medical appointments ranging from routine checkups to lifesaving treatments could be out of reach for many Floridians — especially those in underserved populations.

My colleagues and I in the Legislature recognized this challenge and took the innovative approach of passing legislation that enabled brokers to partner with ride-share companies like Lyft to provide vulnerable Floridians with nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT). By partnering with Lyft, the process for eligible Medicaid patients to get to appointments they simply cannot afford to miss has become much more streamlined.

Thanks to the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Lyft has had the opportunity to assist numerous Florida Medicaid patients this year. Nationally, Lyft provides access to rides for eligible Medicaid patients in 10 states plus the District of Columbia, supporting up to 22 million people as they get to and from their health services. This is impactful for patients and families and is a model that more states should consider adopting.

Beyond the clear health benefits to such a partnership, more convenient transportation also makes the entire health care system more efficient and cost-effective. By some estimates, missed health care appointments in the United States result in $150 billion in unnecessary costs. If we can reduce that by even a small amount, it will have a sizable effect.

As we look ahead, I expect we’ll see more people have access to forward-thinking NEMT options to get to doctor appointments they may have put off over the past several months.

As elected officials, we always strive to find new ways to break down barriers and solve issues affecting our constituents. Lyft’s mission is to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation — and partnering with innovative and like-minded lawmakers helps to deliver on that mission.

Transportation is a tremendous challenge for many families, and ride-sharing services will continue to help millions of people get to those important appointments. With our lives disrupted in so many areas, this should be a starting point for bold new discussions.

What other challenges can we solve with bold ideas? Who knows how many people could be helped by the next great concept?

I hope you’ll join the conversation.

___

Sen. Jeff Brandes represents Pinellas County. Megan Callahan is Vice President of Healthcare at Lyft.

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