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Capitol Correspondence - 12.03.19

Senate Introduces Timely Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Bill

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Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) has been getting attention in Washington, DC this year, with the Administration considering turning this currently mandatory Medicaid-funded service into an optional service. This is causing concern within the disability community because without NEMT, many people with disabilities might not be able to access or afford transportation to doctors’ appointments and other health care services, especially as people with disabilities already have less access to health care than their peers without disabilities. In response to the Administration’s interest in changing the benefit, the House introduced a bill in July to keep NEMT mandatory. This week, the Senate introduced companion legislation to the House bill. This is timely, given an InsideHealthPolicy report on the Administration announcing that it will issue a Request for Information (RFI) on this topic as early as December – that is the first step in exploring a rule change.

As reported by InsideHealthPolicy:

“CMS plans to issue the RFI next month, according to the agenda listing. [ANCOR note: this is a late November article, so “next month” would mean December.]

The plan for an RFI comes nearly five months after CMS delayed a plan to issue a proposed rule that was widely expected to roll back the regulatory requirement for states to cover NEMT. In the fall 2018 regulatory agenda, CMS slated that proposed rule for release in the spring of this year, but after opposition from stakeholders and members of Congress, CMS postponed the targeted release date to 2021.

Advocates for NEMT continue to urge Congress to block CMS from proceeding with any rollback of NEMT benefits, and they are eyeing two avenues. One avenue is the passage of bipartisan legislation that would enshrine the regulation on mandatory NEMT coverage into law. The other avenue is the passage of a spending limitation — approved in June by the House Appropriations Committee — that would bar CMS from spending money on its proposed rule.

Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a bill Nov. 13 that seeks to codify the regulation requiring state Medicaid programs to cover NEMT. A sister bill in the House has been sitting in committee since July. Brown is prioritizing passing the provision in an end-of-year spending package, his office said.”