By David M. Werfel, Esq | AAA Medicare Consultant
Updated February 16, 2016
Federal law requires that state Medicaid programs cover necessary transportation to and from health care providers in order to ensure access to care. However, as a result of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and cost increases, recently, a few states have asked CMS to waive the requirement for non-emergency transportation so they can end coverage of non-emergency transportation.
CMS granted waivers to Iowa and Indiana. Pennsylvania received permission, but the subsequent change in the governor’s office altered the state’s expansion plans and state officials ultimately chose not to use it. Arizona has a pending request to provide prior authorization.
When Iowa was granted the waiver, a beneficiary survey was conducted to determine the impact on access to care. The survey found some beneficiaries with incomes under the poverty level did not have transportation to or from a healthcare visit. Other beneficiaries said a lack of transportation could prevent them from getting a physical exam in the coming year. However, CMS stated the cases of negative impact were not statistically significant enough to discontinue the waiver.
As a result of the complaints, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Frank Pallone, (D-NJ) asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the impact of these waivers. The report is not expected in the near future. However, when issued, it could embolden other states to seek a waiver.