Why NEMT services are more important than ever during the coronavirus crisis.
The novel coronavirus has significantly disrupted everyday life for millions of people in the United States. Several state governments have issued “shelter in place” orders, insisting that residents avoid going outside or congregating with others unless absolutely necessary. Part of those directives include the closure of many businesses and cessation of services deemed non-essential.
During this time of crisis and uncertainty, some have questioned whether non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) solutions constitute an essential service. There can be no doubt that NEMT services are as vital as ever, especially for beneficiaries who rely on them to access critical treatment and medical care.
Providing healthcare access to those in need
Scaling back healthcare operations to support only emergency and immediate care may seem like the most sensible and pragmatic approach to limit the spread of COVID-19, but it would leave thousands of vulnerable individuals without access to healthcare.
NEMT services transport beneficiaries to a wide variety of critical appointments, including chemotherapy, dialysis, mental health and substance abuse treatment sessions. It’s not an exaggeration to say that some people would die if NEMT services were suddenly unavailable to them. Responding to a 2018 Medical Transportation Access Coalition survey, 10% of Medicaid users said they would probably die if they did not have access to NEMT solutions. Healthcare practitioners agree that patients making it to these treatments is critically important:
“As we all try to stay safe and healthy during this coronavirus crisis, I can’t stress enough how important it is for dialysis patients to continue to receive their dialysis treatments. Dialysis is the life-line for these patients, and it is paramount that they continue to take care of themselves. I salute these brave patients, the selfless dialysis healthcare staff who perpetually put patient care first, and the drivers working with companies like LogistiCare to provide the essential transportation many of these patients need,” said Dr. Frita Fisher of Midtown Atlanta Nephrology in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ceasing NEMT services entirely is simply not possible, even in these trying times. With so many at-risk people relying on NEMT to receive medical care and treat serious chronic illnesses, LogistiCare is committed to supporting those in need.
Giving at-risk members more NEMT options
Reliable transportation has become more difficult to find as the coronavirus crisis continues. Local governments have scaled back public transportation to account for reduced ridership and minimize the risk of exposure for workers and riders alike. According to Quartz, public transportation use has dropped significantly in major U.S. cities like New York City, Chicago and Boston. For instance, New York City ridership has gone down 54% since January as a result of the coronavirus.
In response, municipal governments have cut back train and bus schedules, giving residents fewer transportation options. The New York Times reported that New York’s subway service has been cut back 25% in recent weeks due to coronavirus concerns.
Demand for rideshare services is down as well, which could impact availability, especially for individuals living in areas that have been greatly impacted by the coronavirus. For example, bookings for Uber rides has dropped 60-70% in Seattle, according to The Verge. Lower demand combined with public health concerns means there will be fewer drivers on the road.
Vulnerable populations need as many NEMT options as possible to ensure they are able to consistently and safely attend their medical appointments. Direct pickup options can help lower the chance of coronavirus exposure.
Reducing coronavirus exposure for everyone
Minimizing the risk of infection is especially important for beneficiaries who are on dialysis, receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments or suffer from a chronic illness, as they may have compromised immune systems. They may also be more likely to develop serious complications if they are infected by the coronavirus.
LogistiCare remains steadfastly committed to reducing the chance of exposure for members, drivers, healthcare workers and our own employees.
These are some of the steps our company has taken to keep coronavirus at bay:
- Encourage transportation providers and drivers to diligently follow vehicle sanitation best practices, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Encourage drivers and employees to follow guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization in order to minimize the risk of exposure.
- Reschedule trips that can be delayed without putting member health at risk, including routine checkups and physicals.
- Work with local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) departments to transport any beneficiaries who have been infected by the coronavirus.
- Coordinate with local healthcare providers, such as dialysis centers, methadone clinics and chemotherapy facilities, to support continued treatment during staff shortages or shortened hours of operation.
- Adhering to social distancing guidelines for critical positions that cannot be operated from a remote location.
- Directing transportation requests from individuals infected with the coronavirus to emergency transportation services.
- Encouraging anyone, driver or member or employee, who reports being infected with the coronavirus to immediately report their positive result to the local health department.
We’re not taking any chances during this public health crisis. Drivers and LogistiCare employees who have exhibited any overlapping symptoms, even if they are likely linked to allergies or the common cold, are being asked to step aside for the sake of everyone’s health.
The coronavirus threat will pass in time, but at this critical juncture, we believe it’s the responsibility of every member of the healthcare community to do whatever is in our power to minimize the risk of exposure while continuing to deliver critical services to vulnerable populations.
NEMT is one of those vital services. Millions of people depend on NEMT solutions to receive essential healthcare treatment, and we cannot turn our back on them when they need us most.
To find out more about what LogistiCare is doing in response to COVID-19 (the coronavirus), visit our COVID-19 resource center.