NORWICH – Changes at the state level are leading local officials to question the future of public transportation in rural Chenango County.
Public transportation locally has been a concern ever since New York State changed the way it handles medical transportation for Medicaid back in 2010, when the Department of Health was authorized under social services law to assume administrative management of non-emergency transportation in counties. DOH has since required a private Medicaid brokerage system be implemented in each region of the state.
By 2013, Medical Answering Services, a Syracuse-based public transportation company, was awarded a state contract for the Central New York region which encompasses 24 counties, including Chenango.
Because Medical Answering Services was awarded a state contract, non emergency rides for Medicaid patients that would have previously been assigned to public transit were switched to taxis and ambulance providers – many of which are from outside the area. The change was a blow to First Transit, the privately run bussing company whose stake in Chenango County had relied heavily on subsidies given them by the state Department of Health (DOH) for non-emergency transportation for Medicaid recipients.