Transportation is one of the barriers to health care access in the United States, according to the American Hospitals Association. Each year, 3.6 million Americans miss or delay a medical appointment because of factors, such as vehicle access, transportation costs, travel time and distance. An increasing number of Medicare Advantage plans offer transportation benefits to help improve access to care. Seniors interested in nonemergency medical transit coverage should contact their insurance company to determine whether this benefit is included in the plan prior to enrolling.
Medicare is the federal government health insurance plan for adults aged 65 and older. Emergency transportation is covered as part of Medicare Part B and includes travel by ground ambulance to a hospital or skilled nursing facility if medically required. In some cases, ambulance travel in nonemergency situations may be covered if a physician determines it is medically necessary. Beneficiaries must pay a deductible and 20% of Medicare-approved costs.
Medicare Advantage is an alternative to the federal government’s Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) program. Offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare, these plans typically bundle Part A and Part B benefits and provide additional coverage for vision, dental, hearing and wellness.
Recent legislation taking effect in 2020 broadens the kinds of supplemental benefits Medicare Advantage can provide. As a result of increased flexibility, more than 1,900 Medicare Advantage plans are offering nonemergency transportation benefits in 2020, an increase of 25% from the previous year, according to the Medical Transportation Access Coalition.
Nonemergency transportation benefits vary by insurance company and plan, but may include travel to doctor’s appointments, lab tests, pharmacies, massage therapy, fitness centers and other health care-related destinations. Certain Medicare Advantage plans may cover a taxi or rideshare service, while others contract with a transportation broker. Plans may also require prior authorization, demonstrated need and cost-sharing.The Medicare website provides a starting point for comparing Medicare Advantage plans. Seniors interested in transportation benefits should confirm availability and details of coverage with their insurance company prior to enrollment.