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Uber is partnering with hospitals, clinics and other health care providers. Photo: Uber

Uber has launched a new service that will allow hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other health care organizations to order and schedule car rides for patients. Uber is not charging a fee to use the service. The health care providers only have to pay for the ride.

Why it matters: Uber sees a huge untapped market in the roughly 4 million people who skip or delay health care visits every year because they don't have reliable transportation. Hospitals, doctors and other providers could be eager to pay for those rides if it means more on-time appointments and fewer no-shows — which translates into more revenue in their pockets.

How it works: Health care providers who use the product, Uber Health, can help patients schedule rides at any time and for future appointments up to 30 days out.

  • Patients don't need the Uber app or a smartphone. They just need a phone number.
  • Providers coordinate everything and can call patients with the details, such as the license plate or type of car that is picking them up.
  • The product is compliant with federal health care privacy laws.
  • Several hospital systems have piloted Uber's service, including MedStar Health, NYU Langone Health, LifeBridge Health and Renown Health.
  • This is only for visits that can be scheduled and does not address the trend of patients hailing Uber rides to avoid costly ambulance bills.

Yes, but: Uber's product isn't the first of its kind. Lyft has partnered with some hospitals and health insurers, and state Medicaid programs also cover non-emergency transportation. But the service still could help poor people and seniors who don't have the means to see their doctor or nurse.

  • "This is something we’ve been looking at for a couple years now," said Chris Weber, the head of Uber Health.

The new venture is also about big business. Uber gets consistent revenue from health care organizations that book rides, and this is similar to the company's Uber Central app that lets businesses pay for rides as a way to get customers in the door.

Hospitals and other companies won't mind spending $20 or even a couple hundred dollars getting patients to and from appointments if it means those organizations can bill the much higher payments from Medicare, Medicaid or the patient's commercial insurer for the actual visit.

  • "They’re getting another body in that bed," Weber said.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily health care newsletter, Vitals. 

Go deeper

CCP releases two jailed Canadians after Huawei CFO deal with DOJ

Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two Canadians imprisoned by the Chinese government for over 1,000 days have been released and are expected to arrive in Canada on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Why it matters: Their release comes hours after Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that resolves the criminal charges against her and could pave the way for her to return to China.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

Contractors working on behalf of the GOP examine and recount 2020 ballots at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in May. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.

Del Rio bridge camp empty following Haitian migrant surge

A boy bathes himself in a jug of water inside a migrant camp at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sept. 21 in Del Rio, Texas. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The last migrants camping under the Del Rio International Bridge, which connects Texas and Mexico, departed on Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced during a White House press briefing.

Driving the news: Thousands of migrants, mostly from Haiti, had arrived to the makeshift camp after crossing the southern border seeking asylum. Roughly 1,800 migrants will now head to U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing centers.