House approves Sen. Maxmin bill to help older and disabled Mainers in rural communities

Mon, 06/07/2021 - 7:15pm

AUGUSTA — The Maine House approved a bill Monday sponsored by Senator Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, authorizing a pilot project to provide nonmedical transportation services for people receiving certain services under MaineCare.

An amended version of LD 17, “Resolve, To Provide Rural Nonmedical Transportation Services to the Elderly and Adults with Disabilities Receiving Home and Community Benefits under the MaineCare Program,” received bipartisan support in the House with a vote of 107-34, after receiving unanimous, bipartisan support in the Senate last week.

“I’m so grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature for giving their support to this bill. A lack of transportation affects so many Mainers, but especially elderly Mainers and Mainers with disabilities,” said Sen. Maxmin. “When we can’t interact with our communities, our health suffers. A pilot project to expand transportation options for some of our most vulnerable neighbors is the best way to see if access to transportation can have a measurable impact on the health of Maine people, and to see if a larger project is the right fit for Maine.”

As amended, LD 17 would require the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to launch a pilot project that would provide nonmedical transportation for some recipients of MaineCare.

Qualifying recipients are elderly Mainers or Mainers with disabilities who would otherwise require nursing facility care but can remain at home with support. These recipients currently qualify for medical transportation services as part of their benefits.

The bill also authorizes a robust study of the pilot project to look at the medical and social benefits of providing nonmedical transportation to these MaineCare recipients.

DHHS would then submit a report regarding the costs, effectiveness and future viability of the project to lawmakers by December 2024.

A report from Transportation for America, “the largest, most diverse coalition working on transportation reform,” found that “seniors age 65 and older who no longer drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer trips to shop or eat out, and 65 percent fewer trips to visit friends and family.”

In the 2016 Shared Community Health Needs Assessment for Lincoln County, which Sen. Maxmin represents, transportation is cited as one of the biggest health factors leading to poor health outcomes for people in those communities.