Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) is an incredibly important service for patients that need transportation to and from medical appointments but don’t have access to reliable transportation, whether from a family member or public transit. As patients age or recover from medical conditions, oftentimes they cannot find reliable transportation. NEMT is a core Medicaid benefit that is designed to reduce the barriers to access quality healthcare.

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation History

Since the Social Security Amendments of 1965 and President Johnson’s sweeping reforms during the War on Poverty, Medicaid has always included a provision for assuring transportation of Medicaid recipients to and from medical service providers. When funding for Medicaid was signed, it was understood that economically disadvantaged populations needed more assistance in being transported to and from their medical appointments. By not having reliable medical transportation, minor medical problems could grow into major complications.

States recognized the importance of NEMT, and after the state of Texas faced a class-action lawsuit for not providing adequate NEMT for a patient in Smith v. Vowell (1974), few states neglect or ignore the NEMT provisions in Medicaid. However, as the need for more and more transportation arose, states could not adequately provide NEMT. By switching to a more flexible way of handling more Medicaid recipients, many states thought that more patients would be able to access high-quality and reliable NEMT.

In 2005, states received the flexibility that they had been asking for for more than 25 years. The Deficit Reduction Act allowed states to modify the way they provided NEMT. As a result, states began to contract the management of NEMT services to brokers who would work on a guaranteed, fixed budget. Instead of the state paying the transportation companies on a fee-per-service basis, the state allowed brokers to manage and schedule rides with a flat budget. These brokers essentially contract rides from other transportation providers like taxis and van services. This fixed-budget system has reduced fluctuating transportation costs and essentially created a guaranteed market for NEMT; however, critics say that the broker system has reduced the freedom of choice for patients looking for transport services as well as increased the waiting times for a ride.

Issues with Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

Whether you are a patient yourself or you are a hospital administrator, think about the last time you tried to book transportation for either yourself or a patient. Since the Deficit Reduction Act in 2005, the broker system has made very few advancements. As a result, you or someone you are trying to help have to go through an outdated ride-brokering system that lacks transparency, continuity, and reliability. If you’re a hospital administrator, scheduling your patient transportation through a broker can drive your costs up if the patient has to wait hours to be transported.

Depending on what state you are in, some of the drivers may also have no medical license or experience providing non-emergency medical transportation. If any issues arise during transportation, some drivers may have no training on how to deal with the situation. Some transportation brokers arbitrarily require multiple-days notice before the transportation can occur. These two factors can not only harm the patient but also drive up the costs of caring for the patient.

Another major issue with NEMT is its ties to politics. Depending on which party is in power, funding Medicaid is always in flux. Patients are human beings, not political pawns, which is why reducing the costs for NEMT is incredibly important — even if the party in power supports expanding Medicaid funding. In a study done in 2014, an estimated 3.6 million Medicaid recipients said they missed or had delayed medical care because they lacked adequate transportation. For a benefit designed to make medical care accessible, NEMT in its current form is incredibly inefficient.

How Journey Can Help Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

Journey Transportation was created with the sole intention of transforming the NEMT into an efficient, affordable, easy-to-navigate system. Journey Transportation takes the inefficiencies of MS Outlook and paper calendars and turns them into a sleek, user-friendly mobile application and desktop program. Instead of relying on emails, phone messages, calendars, and unreliable brokers, Journey consolidates everything into one program.

Taking inspiration from popular ride-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber, Journey Transportation uses a bidding process to ensure your contracted vendors have the opportunity to bid for your transportation business, ensuring low prices. By using Journey, you can have up-to-date, live calendars that are synced across both you and the transportation provider’s application. Journey also offers automatic notification for the client and automatic bidding, reducing overhead costs.

One of the most helpful features of Journey is the transparency of our reporting system. Whether you want to discover the average cost of transportation, see vendors’ rates, or calculate your cost variance, Journey has a host of reporting and analytic tools so that you can monitor and track your budget. By increasing transparency, you can stay in control of your budget and accurately understand the costs associated with transportation.

If you are ready to make the switch to a more reliable, efficient, and affordable way of managing your non-emergency medical transportation, give Journey Transportation a call today at 704-980-0997 or visit our website for more information. Whether you manage a long-term care facility or you’re a hospital administrator, Journey Transportation is here to make your life and the lives of those you care for better, safer, and happier.