There is an alarming lack of mandatory transport standards for some vulnerable adult populations that are dependent on mobility equipment like wheelchairs. When you compare them to the stringent — and numerous — transport standards for car seats and booster seats used by dependent infants and children, those for elderly and disabled individuals in need of safe non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) seem almost nonexistent. Unfortunately, this lack of NEMT equipment standards often results in mistakes and accidents — and sometimes even death.
However, not all NEMT providers are bad; most are committed to exceptional service in getting this vulnerable population to and from essential medical appointments reliably. Working together, NEMT providers, caregivers, healthcare facilities, non-governmental organizations, and lawmakers need to create a better framework for solutions that benefit all stakeholders. Safer transportation equipment and processes for seniors also results in lower overall healthcare costs while increasing accountability, holistic healthcare outcomes, and profitability for healthcare and transportation providers.
For many of those more dependent patients, Medicaid’s NEMT benefit is the only way they can access the care they need, attend appointments, visit healthcare specialists, and more. In a Kaiser Family Foundation study, at least 3.6 million people in the U.S. were unable to receive vital medical care because they didn’t have access to reliable transportation.
According to a survey conducted by the National Organization on Disability, over half of those with disabilities said inadequate transportation was a major problem for them. The same survey found that the more serious the disability of the respondent, the more serious the transportation problem.
Limited access to transportation or inadequate transportation proves to be even more of an issue for those in rural areas, where there are more disabled people per capita, costs are significantly higher, patients tend to be from lower-income backgrounds, and trips to receive healthcare are longer, more costly, and more dangerous.