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Breaking Down the Transportation Barrier to Health Care Access

Written by Hanh Nguyen, Whole Person Care Project Assistant.

Transportation is a basic and necessary step to ensure a person’s ability to obtain well-coordinated health care and access to medical services. What would be an effortless and straightforward task for many people, such as visiting the doctor’s office or picking up medication from the pharmacy, can become a great challenge for the elderly, individuals living with chronic illnesses, and those who are low income.

Every year, approximately 3.6 million Americans, urban and rural, miss or delay essential, non-emergency medical care because they experience transportation barriers. The simple issue of not being able to find or purchase a ride to the doctor’s office can, ultimately, result in poor health outcomes and enormous health care costs, especially for those who are chronically ill.

Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), provided through the Medicaid program, is a critical service for beneficiaries who have no means of transportation to and from their medical visits. NEMT is a cost-effective, and often even cost-saving, approach that ensures consistent access to health care and provides greater opportunities to screen, diagnose, and treat chronic conditions.

In recent years, however, due to ongoing concerns regarding Medicaid funding and administrative challenges in delivering health care services, policymakers are re-examining the value of providing NEMT to their beneficiaries. At CHLPI, we believe that NEMT is a key driver of health outcomes and costs that must be protected to ensure access and equity in our health care system.

We are therefore pleased to announce that, working with our partners at Lung Cancer Alliance, we will be releasing a four-part series of issues briefs that will highlight the important role that transportation plays in ensuring effective access to care for individuals living with lung cancer and other chronic illnesses. Part I of this series is now available on our website. In this initial issue brief, we make the case for NEMT based on its impacts on health outcomes and costs, and describe the basic legal framework that states must operate within to deliver NEMT services.

Future issues briefs (Parts II-IV) will focus on the following topics:

  1. Current trends, challenges, and innovative practices in NEMT;
  2. Medicaid Section 1115 Demonstration Waivers: responding to efforts to limit NEMT benefits; and
  3. Looking beyond NEMT: additional approaches to address transportation and health care access challenges.

CHLPI and the Lung Cancer Alliance will work together to provide tools and strategies for stakeholders interested in working to protect, expand, or improve access to NEMT services in their states. Check back regularly for updates on the upcoming issue briefs!



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