State RFP concerns county transit

Jan. 24, 2013 @ 06:33 AM

A potential shift in how Medicaid patients are transported for doctor appointments and other medical transportation has drawn some issue from Rutherford County Transit.

The North Carolina Health and Human Services department has asked for a request for proposal (RFP) from outside agencies to bid on Medicare transports.

"It may save the Department of Health and Human Services but it will have a tremendous cost to local transportation systems," said Kerry Giles, director of the Rutherford County Transit Authority.

The fear is that trips for Medicaid patients will be more based on cost and less on providing the "best form of service to the Medicaid passenger."

Currently, according to the county, there are three cab companies that handle approximately half of the Medicaid transports in the county. Creating a broker model under the RFP could result in the loss of business to those local companies in Rutherford County.

"My concern is that people just won't get the transportation they need," Giles said. "We would have to bid on trips and not on the best routes to take."

State Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Spruce Pine, said that, under the RFP, any company that bids will have to ensure that the medical transport is made.

"My understanding is that if you have the brokerage you have to make that trip," Hise said. "If you don't, you're off the list."

However, if the state moves forward with the brokerage, Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen said that the county will be forced to shut down about half of its Transit routes.

"We would not be able to compete," Classen said.

Giles added that the Transit Authority is not in the business of transporting to make money but, more to provide the service of getting Medicaid patients to there medical appointments.

"We're just trying to break even," Giles said. "This is not about revenue."

Another concern from the county is the fact that anyone who is awarded the brokerage contract may bring in their own fleet of vehicles to service the contract, thus augmenting routes and setting a flat rate for transports, thus resulting in lower revenues for any party involved in taking Medicaid patients for medical appointments.

However, Hise did say that one of the bidders for the brokerage contract, if awarded, would use local transportation providers, such as the Transit Authority, as opposed to using their own fleet of vehicles.

"I cannot see any contracts coming in and them thinking they are going to be profitable by bringing in their own fleet," Hise said.

The initial due date for the RFP was in October 2012. Hise said that the extension of the due date is because no one was ready to submit a bid.