We need to protect Pa’s Medical Assistance Transportation Program | Opinion

June 3, 2019 6:30 am

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo)

By Pam Snyder

There’s a program that you may have heard about in recent weeks, called the Medical Assistance Transportation Program, or MATP.

It provides transportation for Medical Assistance recipients who do not have transportation available to them for non-emergency medical appointments, including visits and appointments to primary care providers, dentists, optometrists, rural health clinics, pharmacies and hospice programs.

My colleagues in the House and Senate are concerned about a plan put in place by the state Department of Human Services, which could adversely affect transportation access for those who depend on MATP.

Last year, the state Human Services Code included a mandate that shared ride services must go through a statewide or regional vendor, instead of county or locally based services. This requirement does not allow for any flexibility, especially in the more rural and sparsely populated areas of our state, which is of great concern to my colleagues and me.

That’s why we have introduced two bills – HB986 in the House and SB390 in the Senate –to ask DHS to hold off on this plan until a thorough review is conducted, taking a close look at access, community needs and resources. 

While we all want to save money and be wise stewards of our state dollars, I’m not sure if this plan will work, for several reasons. Proponents of the plan claim it will allow Pennsylvania to collect millions of dollars more in federal aid for MATP.

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There are, however, indications that the DHS plan could cost the commonwealth more, to the tune of $31.5 million, and would jeopardize other programs contributing to the state’s shared ride system, like the senior shared ride program.

This switch could also impact service hours available for transportation, a change in providers, and the potential for higher costs for clients. Any transportation changes for MA recipients could lead to confusion and result in significant, adverse impacts to their health care.

We need to see how the plan will truly impact people in Pennsylvania. It cannot be a cookie cutter approach. What may work in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh won’t necessarily work in other communities in our state, including Waynesburg, Uniontown or Washington.

This effective program saves both lives and money.

While national figures indicate that Pennsylvania’s MATP is the third largest in the country, based on expenditures, it does provide transportation assurance for more than twice the number of medical trips of any other state in the country.

A 2018 study by the Medical Transportation Access Coalition found MATP to be a highly cost-effective, public-private partnership that helps assure the health and well-being of millions of people across the country, saving Medicaid more than $40 million per month for every 30,000 beneficiaries receiving treatment for end-stage renal disease, diabetic wound care and substance abuse disorder treatment. 

We need to do all we can to protect our most vulnerable citizens –our senior citizens, people with disabilities – to ensure they get access to the care they need and deserve.

State Rep. Pam Snyder, a Democrat, represents the Greene County-based 50th House District. She writes from Harrisburg.

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