woman in mask behind wheel of car

Health insurer Aetna’s Medicare Advantage (MA) members could benefit from a new collaboration between CVS Health, Aetna’s parent company, and Uber Health.

The collaboration announced Wednesday will provide free transportation to low-income patients needing rides to medical care, work or educational programs. The partnership is part of CVS’s Health Zones initiative, which aims to reduce health disparities in high-risk communities by addressing social determinants of health such as housing, transportation, access to food and healthcare.

“Our Health Zones initiative allows us to make a real impact on the health of communities across the country by working closely with organizations that share our commitment to addressing social determinants of health,” Eileen Howard Boone, CVS Health senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy, and chief sustainability officer, said.

Transportation for both medical and nonmedical needs is becoming an increasingly important benefit in MA plans. Healthcare advisory firm ATI Advisory found the number of MA plans offering transportation as a nonmedical benefit more than doubled for the 2022 plan year.

Although the new collaboration between CVS and Uber does not target Aetna’s MA members now, ATI Advisory CEO Anne Tumlinson told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse in an email that those members might be able to take advantage of the benefit down the road.

“The new partnership around services in health zones is broader than the Aetna MA membership,” Tumlinson said. “It will benefit any plan member in the community where it is offered. In general, though, MA is a much more flexible financing tool for paying for home-based medical and social services and I’m sure the CVS CEO has its MA plan in mind as the larger organization pushes into the home and community.

From pharmacy to health solutions firm

The collaboration between CVS and Uber further advances CVS’s strategy to transform itself from a retail pharmacy chain into a fully integrated health solutions company. CVS also owns Minute Clinics, which provide acute primary care in CVS stores.

CVS executives said during an investors conference last month  part of that strategy is  building a strong base in home care by delivering patients the products and services they need. Dual eligible seniors who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid offer tremendous potential to CVS because most live within a 10-mile radius of a CVS store.

Walgreens, VillageMD expand

Walgreens Boots Alliance is following a similar home-centric game plan. The company is extending healthcare services into the home through its partnership with VillageMD, which provides value-based primary care services. On Thursday, those two companies announced an expansion in Arizona.