Burns urges a stop to medical transport changes

Leads Northwest Caucus efforts to halt damaging action

EBENSBURG, Feb. 4 – Supporting local transit agencies and their riders, state Rep. Frank Burns is co-sponsoring legislation to delay potentially costly and disruptive changes to the state’s Medical Assistance Transportation Program.


The program – which offers shared rides to medical appointments for Medical Assistance recipients when other means are unavailable – currently operates at a local level that takes account of each region’s geographic needs. A new law requires the state Department of Human Services to move to a statewide or three-region system.


Burns joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in supporting a bill that would require DHS to study the issue further before making changes to the program.


“We cannot allow the state to dismantle a system that works simply because some bureaucrats claim they could save money when they haven’t looked at the true cost to our communities,” said Burns, D-Cambria. “Before any contracts are issued, DHS needs to bring local transit agencies to the table to negotiate the best way to provide Medical Assistance transportation moving forward.”


Burns, chairman of the Northwest Democratic Caucus, said he’s heard from CamTran and other transit agencies that losing the ability to provide the Medical Assistance trips could lead to cutbacks in service areas and hours, as well as steep fare hikes.


Moved by their concerns, Burns wrote a letter to DHS Secretary Teresa Miller, which was signed by the entire Northwest Caucus, advocating a delay in changes.


Public transportation riders must already navigate fixed-route bus schedules and shared ride options provided by transit agencies. Layering a new provider for a limited segment of riders adds an unnecessary level of complexity for users,” the letter states.


The little-noticed program change came among a slew of updates to the Human Services Code, enacted as Act 40 of 2018. The law requires DHS to seek bids from companies that could operate the program as a statewide or regional full-risk broker.


A copy of the letter is available here.