Access Scioto County (ASC) held a public hearing Tuesday to solicit comment from the public concerning proposed fare increases and possible service cuts to be made in 2018 due to the anticipated loss of $150,000 in Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) funds next year.
According to ASC Coordinator Larry Mullins, NEMT transportation services are provided to Medicaid eligible individuals that includes, but not limited to, transportation to and from primary care, specialist, and behavior health appointments; dialysis; pharmacies; and post-hospital discharges.
The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) is preparing to implement a provision in the State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2019 budget to oversee certain NEMT services to Medicaid recipients through a statewide model.
Currently most NEMT service are administered, at the local level, through county Departments of Job & Family Services (JFS).
ASC has had a NEMT contract with the Scioto County JFS to transport Medicaid eligible individuals in Scioto County since 1998.
As of July 1, 2018, the ODM will move local control of the NEMT funds from the county JFS control to the statewide model.
The likelihood of ASC or any other for the 34- rural public transits in Ohio continuing to receive NEMT funds is not very likely. This means ASC will lose between $120,000 and $150,000 in operating revenue in 2018 and approximately $250,000 to $300,000 in 2019.
According to Mullins officials from ASC met with the Scioto County Commissioners on November 9, 2017 to explain the situation and to seek funds to help make up the loss of the NEMT in order to continue to operate at ASC at the present service and fare structure. Mullins said, “The Commissioners were very sympathetic to our situation, however they told us that they (the Commissioners) were in no position to help ASC financially, due to the strains being put on the county budget next year, due to the loss of the MCO tax”.
Mullins added, “That the Commissioners did offer to forego the rent that ASC pays to the Commissioners for the building from which we operate from at 601 8th Street, Portsmouth”. Mullins said, “This will save ASC $19,200 per year going forward and will be able to be listed under the County’s Cost Allocation Plan as an In-Kind cost and could be counted towards ASC’s local match to our annual Rural Transportation Grant”.
Mullins said, “With the loss of the NEMT funds, we (ASC) are faced with some very tough decision in order to keep ASC operating next year”. “Unfortunately we will have to lay off two employees next year and if any other employ should resign next year, they will not be replaced”, Mullins said.
According to Mullins, “We have restructured our health insurance so that our employees are carrying more of the financial load.” “We have also reduced and canceled all non-essential services”, Mullins added.
Mullins also said, “We are also looking for a different building from which we operate our Wheelersburg service that offers less expensive rent”.
As part of the public hearing Mullins announced a new fare structure for the transit service.
Mullins said, “Beginning Monday, February 5, 2018 the ASC service area will be divided into three zones.” Mullins added, “Zone one will continue to be based on our current “Grid System”, which is divided into five-square mile “Grid Areas”. Base fare for zone one will continue to be $1.00 per one-way trip for the first initial grid traveled, and additional 50-cents for each additional grid traveled”, Mullins said. Mullins said, “Zone one will include Portsmouth; New Boston; Sciotoville; Wheelersburg and; Clay; Porter; Rush; Valley; and Washington Townships.
Mullins said, “The Wheelersburg Dial-A-Ride service area will continue to be considered one grid area”.
According to Mullins, “Zone two will include Harrison; Jefferson; Morgan; Nile; and Union Townships”. “Base fare for zone two will be $15.00 per one-way trip”, Mullins said.
“Mullins said, “Zone three will include Bloom; Brush Creek; Green; Madison; Rarden; and Vernon Townships.” Mullins added, “Base fare for zone three will be $20.00 per one-way trip.”
Mullins added, “Half price discounts will continue to be available to all elderly and disabled passengers, children 12 and under, and Veterans of the United States military services.”
(Please see attached New ASC Fare Structure Map)
Mullins said, “The fare increases, possible service cuts, and layoffs are very heartbreaking because they will affect our employees, our passengers, and their families”. “I am afraid that the cuts and restructuring of the NEMT funds by the state will mean many people that currently use our service and need it the most will fall through the cracks and will not be able to get to the medical treatment they need”, Mullins added.