NORWICH – Facing state funding cuts that are vital to the sustainability of public transportation in Chenango County, county officials are moving ahead with a cautionary measure to keep that funding flowing into the area.
Last week, the county’s Public Works Committee met with administrators of First Transit, the private bussing company and primary provider of public transportation in Chenango County. Since 2013, First Transit has seen drastic cuts in state aid due to changes brought about by the state’s handling of non-emergency Medicaid transportation.
Financial trouble for First Transit started in 2010, when the state Department of Health changed the way it manages medical transportation for Medicaid recipients. DOH was authorized under social services law to assume administrative management of non-emergency transportation in counties and, in an effort to save money at the state level, required a private Medicaid brokerage system to be implemented in each region of the state.
By 2013, DOH awarded Medical Answering Services, a Syracuse-based public transportation company, a state contract for the Central New York region which encompasses Chenango County.
Because DOH contracted with Medical Answering Services, Medicaid patients in Chenango County who previously relied on First Transit were switched to taxis and ambulance providers, some of which are from outside the area. The change hurt First Transit because the company’s stake in Chenango County relied heavily on Medicaid transportation subsidies from DOH.