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Uber Hopes Discounted Health Care Services Will Appeal to Drivers

October 19, 2016, 7:51 PM UTC
Uber logo on a vehicle near Union Square in San Francisco, California
The Uber logo is seen on a vehicle near Union Square in San Francisco, California, U.S. May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo - RTX2C0YV
Robert Galbraith — Reuters

Uber’s latest strategy to make its service appealing to drivers: Health care.

The ride-hailing company said on Wednesday that it’s teaming up with Dignity Health and GoHealth, two chains of health care clinics and emergency care centers, to provide access to resources like health classes and discounted health care services to drivers in San Francisco and their immediate family members. For a limited time, they’ll also be able to get free flu shots at those clinics.

“When we think about drivers, they’re really our customers,” Wayne Ting, Uber’s Bay Area general manager, told Fortune. Other perks the company has recently rolled out for drivers include the ability to withdraw their earnings whenever they want instead of weekly, as well as a partnership with Betterment, a so-called “robo-advisor” that uses algorithms to manage customer investments.

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Dignity and GoHealth plan to offer classes to drivers that are specific to health concerns related to their jobs, such as ergonomics to help them better manage sitting in a car all day. The health care companies’ mobile apps include features that let let drivers sign up for an appointment or queue up remotely so they don’t have to wait at the clinic.

The companies also say that they’ll provide discounts for services at the clinics, though it’s unclear exactly how steep the discounts are. An Uber spokesman declined to share more specifics on the prices drivers will be charged for services.

To access the special services and prices, drivers must simply show their active Uber app on their smartphone at the front desk, while family members can provide the drivers’ phone number associated with their Uber account. Drivers who have health insurance through another employer or source can use their insurance to pay for services as they would at other health care providers. With that said, Ting says the company does not know which drivers have insurance.

“We’re trying to find solutions that make our driver’s lives better regardless of their access” to health insurance, he added.

This latest “perk” for drivers is especially interesting given the company’s ongoing battle over classifying drivers as contractors instead of employees, who would be eligible for benefits like heath insurance. Uber is still working to settle a three-year-old lawsuit filed by former drivers who claim the company owes them for unpaid expenses, as it would for employees.

While this new service doesn’t change drivers’ employment status, it does show that Uber is hoping that these types of extra perks can change the common perception that the company doesn’t view drivers as part of its workforce. Whether that ultimately does temper drivers’ concerns remains to be seen, however.

Uber’s main rival in the U.S., Lyft, which also classifies its drivers as contractors, has been offering perks to its drivers for quite some time, including the ability to withdraw earnings whenever they want to, and gas discounts at Shell stations.

For now, the new health care resources are only available to drivers in San Francisco, but the companies plan to roll them out in other cities soon, such as Portland and New York City.