3.6 million seniors miss medical appointments each year due to transportation barriers like lack of access or high costs. Luckily, an increasing number of Medicare Advantage plans now include nonemergency transportation as a supplemental benefit. Typically, these benefits are provided by an outside provider, such as a transportation company or ride share service, like Lyft.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires all MCOs and transportation brokers to schedule trips a minimum of 48 hours in advance. However, they must make a good faith effort to provide urgent transportation requests when the beneficiary’s healthcare provider and/or transporter believes that the trip must be scheduled within 24 hours.
In some cases, Medicare will cover emergency ambulance transportation to or from a nonlocal facility. This is only if your doctor writes an order that says the transport is medically necessary and can’t be postponed, such as when you are losing a lot of blood or in shock. In addition, Medicare may pay for emergency air ambulance transport if you need immediate and rapid transport that ground transportation can’t provide, such as when you are traveling to or from your kidney dialysis appointment.
While original Medicare doesn’t generally cover any nonemergency transportation, your Medigap plan might do so if it covers the cost of the ride. You can check your plan’s documents to see what rules and requirements apply. Also, some states and local communities have programs that help with transportation, including PACE programs.