Yesterday, Uber announced the launch of “Uber Health,” a service with the stated goal of transporting people to health appointments either immediately or hours to days in advance. The announcement comes after years of Uber’s lack of accommodations for people with physical disabilities, according to advocacy organizations, and it’s unclear that the company will address it with this new service.
It’s unclear how or whether Uber Health will overlap with UberWAV, a service launched in 2016 that provides wheelchair-friendly cars.
Uber has faced a number of lawsuits accusing UberWAV of providing subpar service compared to its services for able-bodied people. Last July, the nonprofit organization Disability Rights Advocate sued Uber for discrimination in New York state, alleging that UberWAV provides inconsistent access to wheelchair-friendly vehicles and prolonged wait times. Uber has also been sued under these grounds in California and Mississippi, where just yesterday, a state judge approved the plaintiff to sue under Americans With Disabilities Act, which is federal law.
Last April, reporting by outlets such as Stat indicated that people are opting to use Uber and other ride sharing services in place of an ambulance, which in extreme cases, can cost thousands of dollars. According to Uber Health’s About page, Uber has been looking into capitalizing on the market for health transportation since July of last year.
It’s also unclear whether Uber Health is poised to make any significant changes in healthcare appointment access for customers generally. According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in February and cited on the Uber Health “about” page, about 3.6 million Medicaid patients miss healthcare appointments annually due to a lack of access to transportation.
However, that same study also found that people don’t often use ride-sharing services to reach healthcare appointments. In fact, it’s rare enough that accounting for ride-sharing wasn’t shown to increase or decrease people’s access to care. Uber and Uber Health representatives did not immediately respond for comment, but The Outline will update the story upon a response.