First Transit faces uncertainty with changes to Medicaid transportation

NORWICH – State-wide changes in medical transportation for Medicaid recipients are pushing county officials to request increased state funding for public transportation, citing new mandates and contract deals that could cause First Transit, the county’s primary source of public transportation, to leave the area.

In 2010, the State Department of Health was authorized under social services law to assume administrative management of non-emergency transportation in counties, and has since required a private Medicaid brokerage system be implemented in each region of New York State.

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. Changes went into effect in October.

Because Medical Answering Services was awarded the 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, according to county officials.

“There’s potential this could effect the bottom line for First Transit,” explained Chenango County Department of Social Services (DSS) Director Bette Osborne.

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