White House taps Lyft for ObamaCare outreach

The Obama administration is partnering with Lyft as it looks to boost healthcare coverage among part-time workers, like the company’s drivers-for-hire.

The ride-hailing company Lyft said Thursday it has reached out to drivers in more than 190 cities to alert them of the HealthCare.gov deadline on Jan. 31 — the last chance to buy coverage that begins in 2016.

“We want the millions of Americans working as freelance professionals to know that quality, affordable health coverage is available,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell wrote in a statement Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT
Administration officials have been ramping up outreach with 72 hours left ahead of this year's deadline. 

The focus on Lyft also touts ObamaCare's benefits to the rising "on-demand economy."

Lyft drivers are considered private contractors, rather than full-time employees, which means Lyft is not legally required to offer them health insurance under ObamaCare. 

Instead, those individuals — and anyone else who opts out of their employer’s plans — can pick plans on the federal marketplace. Most can receive subsidies to help them afford their plans.

Logan Green, the CEO of Lyft, called ObamaCare “the right kind of mobile benefit for people seeking flexibility as well as affordable coverage.”

“We’re proud to help spread the news about the ACA to drivers, so those who need it can best plan for their future,” Green said in a statement.

ObamaCare has been a boon to companies with nontraditional workforces like Lyft, even as other businesses sharply criticize new rules that require them to offer healthcare to all employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

Lyft’s biggest competitor in the ride-hailing business, Uber, has also publicly touted the benefits of ObamaCare for its workers.

Last year, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said a shake-up of the traditional employer healthcare system was “huge” for companies like his.

“The democratization of those types of benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living,” Kalanick told reporters in 2014. “They don’t have to be working for The Man.”

Health officials are ramping up their outreach ahead of this weekend’s deadline, when ObamaCare will end its third open enrollment season.

So far, about 8.9 million people have signed up through the federal exchange — higher than last year’s figure of 7.7 million at the same time.

Nationally, more than 11.6 million have signed up — a number that puts the administration ahead of its goal for the year, though there may still be individuals who drop their coverage before paying.  

“I think we’re all feeling good about where we are. No one’s running a victory lap, but we’re feeling good,” Kevin Counihan, CEO of HealthCare.gov, told reporters Thursday.