Medicaid transportation service changing hands

ROCKINGHAM — Southeast Vermont Transit, the company that operates both The Current and The MOOver, is stepping away from the Medicaid transportation business. Medicaid patients, however, will still have transportation to their dialysis appointments, cancer treatments, doctor visits, opioid treatments and trips to the pharmacy. Green Mountain Community Network will take over Medicaid transportation in Windham County and Marble Valley Regional Transition District will take over southern Windsor County on Jan. 15.

"Nobody should panic," SEVT CEO Randy Schoonmaker said.

Medicaid patients are provided non-emergency medical transportation through a federal mandate. Each county in Vermont is required to provide NEMT.

SEVT simply can't afford to continue the service, said Schoonmaker. NEMT is funded by the Department of Vermont Health, which pays transportation companies a fixed weekly rate based on how many customers use the service for NEMT, but not how often they use it. Some customers may use the service once a year, while some need it multiple times a day.

The highest rate of NEMT use in Windham County is for patients needing opioid addiction treatment - 67 percent - and opioid patients tend to need more rides than other patients, Schoonmaker said. However, SEVT is not paid extra for the amount of rides its riders need.

After evaluating last year's revenues, the non-profit transportation service realized that something needed to go.

"We're losing money providing NEMT," Schoonmaker said. Though SEVT will be making some of that money up by cutting the NEMT service, it won't necessarily be saving money. "We're simply getting rid of the deficit," Schoonmaker said. "We're not even cracking even."

Schoonmaker said that all other SEVT programs will remain.

"Our company is not going out of business," he said. "We're just getting out of this." The company will still retain its elderly and disabled transportation services.

Elaine Haykto, the executive director of the Vermont Public Transportation Association, said NEMT riders will see very little difference in the way they get rides after Jan. 15. Haykto said no one should miss rides and rides will still come in a timely manner.

"The transition will be pretty smooth," she said.

In the second week of December, Haykto said, VPTA will send out more information to its affected NEMT users about the new services.

"We understand that this is a very vulnerable population," Schoonmaker said. "We won't leave them by the side of the road."

Harmony Birch can be reached at, at @Birchharmony on Twitter and 802-254-2311, Ext. 153.


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