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​Uber: Pay more for rides to cover drivers' insurance

The ride-hailing company is bumping up rates in eight US states to fund an injury insurance program for drivers. The drivers also have to pay to join.

Uber is testing a program that expands injury protection insurance to drivers.
Uber is testing a program that expands injury protection insurance to drivers.

Uber will now charge passengers 5 more cents per mile in eight US states.

Why? To help pay for a test program that provides Uber drivers with injury protection insurance, according to Pennsylvania news site PennLive. The ride-hailing service said the program will give drivers a cheaper option for insurance that covers medical expenses and lost income from on-the-job injuries.

"We believe drivers should have a low-cost option for protecting themselves and their families from rare and unforeseen accidents that prevent them from working," Gus Fuldner, Uber's head of safety and insurance, said in an email to CNET.

Uber is one of the biggest ride-hailing services in the world, with operations in more than 450 cities in over 70 countries. More than 1 million people drive for Uber, but the relationship between the company and its drivers isn't always smooth. Uber drivers have staged protests, filed lawsuits and voiced concerns that their pay is too low.

The company's new offer appears to be an attempt to appease drivers. The way it works is drivers can opt in by paying roughly 5 cents per mile to cover the cost of injury protection insurance from Uber partners One Beacon and Aon.

The insurance will cover medical expenses and loss of income from an on-the-job accident up to $1 million. Drivers in the program won't have to pay a deductible or copay, according to PennLive. The injury protection insurance covers drivers only when they're working for Uber, not during their off hours.

"Uber is not making any money off of this," Fuldner told PennLive. "We think this is an option drivers should have to protect themselves and their families."

The ride-hailing company rolled out a similar program to drivers in the UK last month. For that program, all drivers who've completed at least 500 trips have the option of buying illness and injury insurance for £2 ($2.60) per week.

Not everyone sees this move as altruistic. Rebecca Smith, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, said it seems Uber is just trying to look good.

"Though consumers are assured that they are paying for workers' insurance, that will only be true for the drivers who opt in," Smith said. "If Uber valued its workers, it would simply pay its workers' compensation premiums and cover all of them."

Uber is running its pilot program in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware, Illinois, Arizona, Oklahoma and Massachusetts.

First published May 9, 4:43 p.m. PT.
Update, May 10 at 9:32 a.m.: Adds comment from Uber's head of safety and insurance, Gus Fuldner.

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