AUGUSTA — Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, introduced Wednesday 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.”
The bill was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.
“In our rural communities, a lack of safe, reliable transportation is a huge barrier for older and disabled Mainers,” said Sen. Maxmin. “For too many people, just going to the grocery store, picking up prescriptions, or running other essential errands is a daunting task simply because they can’t drive or don’t have access to a vehicle. While there are a number of regional programs trying to meet this need, they are often underfunded and reliant on volunteers. The problem has only been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time to search for solutions to this very complicated matter. LD 17 is the result of nearly three years of work, and I’m excited for its potential.”
LD 17 would require the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to create an 18-month pilot project to provide nonmedical transportation for people receiving certain services under MaineCare, in addition to currently allowed medical transportation services. DHHS would then submit a report regarding the costs, effectiveness and future viability of the project to lawmakers by Jan. 30, 2023.
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.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, regional transportation services shut down in Lincoln County. To help those in need, Sen. Maxmin ended up running a transportation network to bring folks to doctor appointments, pharmacy pick-ups, the grocery store, and other essential places, according to a news release from the Senator’s office. This network continues to this day, and she organizes multiple rides per week, the release noted.
LD 17 faces further action in committee.