Uber Accidentally Offers to Provide Health Insurance to Drivers Outside California

In May, rideshare company Uber emailed many of its drivers and delivery workers with an offer to help cover their health care costs. The email contained descriptions of subsidies worth several hundred dollars, or even over $1,000 in some cases. Amounts depended on the hours driven by each person per week and their current insurance coverage. However, Uber retracted the offer shortly afterward, explaining that the email was sent in error. It intended to send the email only to Uber drivers and delivery people in California.

In general, Uber drivers are legally defined as independent contractors rather than employees. This means that they are not entitled to receive health insurance through Uber, as an employee would through their employer. People who drive for Uber often live from paycheck to paycheck with minimal financial security. The COVID-19 pandemic also has reduced demand in the rideshare industry, making their situation even less stable. Health care coverage thus could make a substantial difference to Uber drivers.

California drivers are uniquely entitled to health care subsidies from Uber, as well as Lyft and other gig economy companies, due to a new law known as Proposition 22. Rideshare companies put this measure on the ballot to claim an exemption from a California requirement that they treat their drivers as employees. Voters passed Proposition 22 into law last November. Among its provisions, it requires Uber, Lyft, and similar companies to provide health care subsidies for drivers and delivery workers who spend an average of 15 to 25 hours per week working for the company. Subsidies cover 41 percent of the average California Coverage monthly premium. This explains why California drivers (and only California drivers) were meant to receive this email.

Non-California drivers and delivery workers who received the email can request a reimbursement for the first month’s premium of any health care plan for which they signed up between May 26, when the email was sent, and June 9, when Uber explained its mistake. They must cancel their health plan and submit documentation such as screenshots to Uber to qualify for the reimbursement.

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