The Growing Need for Non-Emergency Medical Transportation 

Kevin Mehalick
car ambulance and paramedic

Nearly 5.8 million Americans miss or delay their healthcare due to a lack of transportation, according to a study in the American Journal of Public HealthThat is nearly 16,000 people per day in the United States that are not seeing their doctor, many of those people have chronic conditions where a missed appointment can have a serious adverse effect on their health. As a country, we have long known that providing transportation to Medicaid patients is an essential benefit. Since 1965, Medicaid has had a non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) benefit and over 75 million people are enrolled in Medicaid as of 2019. According to a new KFF Medicaid budget survey, states are anticipating growth of 8.2% in Medicaid membership in 2021, largely driven by COVID impacts and the high unemployment rate. As Medicaid enrollment and Medicaid eligibility expansion occurs, the need for NEMT services grows as well.  

Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) provides services to patients who have difficulties getting to and from medical appointments, social services, or behavioral health services because they are unable to access transportation on their own. That might be because they live in a rural area without access to public transportation, lack a driver’s license or vehicle, have challenges getting friends or family to provide rides, or have physical or cognitive challenges that prevent them from driving. Sometimes it’s as simple as patients who are elderly and do not feel comfortable getting behind the wheel, and in their desire to remain independent, do not want to reach out to friends and family for a ride to the doctor. 

Non-emergency medical transportation is not just for routine trips to the doctor’s office. It also applies to patients who need a ride home after an emergency room visit, need to be transferred between hospitals to receive specialized care, or need to get to a food bank, to job training or to pick up medications at the pharmacy. 

The need for medical transportation providers (wheelchair vans, non-emergency ambulances) and the technology to efficiently coordinate rides for patients is estimated to grow at a rate of 6.5% per year for the next 5 years, based on recent industry reportsThe past year exposed many of the weaknesses in the NEMT system and the vulnerabilities of our aging, rural, and low socioeconomic households. With our ability to provide all levels of NEMT, and capability to launch new clients in as little as 2-4 weeks, Roundtrip is ready to help hospitals, clinics and community-based organizations solve their medical transportation challenges and get vulnerable and underserved populations to the care that they deserve.