Medicaid: Non-emergency medical transportation

The Issue: Medicaid Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT)

Where We Stand:

NAMI believes all people with Medicaid coverage should have access to non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) services and opposes efforts by state or federal governments to limit or eliminate this benefit. NEMT is a critical benefit for people with mental health conditions that supports regular use of health care services.

Why We Care:

Access to mental health treatment, services and supports is vital for people with mental illness. For many people with mental illness, having reliable, affordable transportation to and from medical appointments can be a major hurdle. Each year, millions of people miss medical appointments due to unavailable or unaffordable transportation. This creates fewer opportunities for individuals to manage their mental health needs, often leading to the use of more costly health care services and worse health outcomes.

Currently, all state Medicaid programs must cover NEMT, which helps people who otherwise may not have a reliable means of getting to appointments better access health care services. People with Medicaid coverage rely on the NEMT benefit to get to necessary medical care, including mental health care. Medicaid beneficiaries are significantly more likely to attend medical appointments when using NEMT, and the majority of individuals on Medicaid agree that they would not be able to keep medical appointments without it. NEMT is particularly important for people with mental illness, with behavioral health services being the most frequently cited reason for using NEMT.

NEMT represents only a small share of Medicaid spending, but it helps people access timely medical care, preventing more costly trips like ambulance rides to the emergency room, which results in an average monthly savings of $1,300 per person.

How We Talk About It:

  • If a person has no way to get to a health care appointment, even the best mental health services won’t be helpful in managing a mental health condition.
  • And, without transportation options to get to medical care, treatable conditions can worsen into more serious and expensive illnesses.
  • To help people covered by Medicaid, all state Medicaid programs must cover non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) in their Medicaid programs.
  • Fortunately, NEMT helps many people with mental illness covered by Medicaid access health and mental health services when they may not otherwise have a reliable way to get to appointments.
  • NEMT is only a small share of Medicaid spending. When state and federal governments limit or get rid of NEMT services, people may not be able to get help when they need it. Costs shift to communities, pushing people with mental illness into emergency rooms, hospitals and even jails – costing the government more in the long run.
  • Despite the many benefits of NEMT, a few states have asked for – and received --permission to limit their Medicaid NEMT benefit, but limiting NEMT services creates additional barriers for people with mental health conditions.
  • Instead, Medicaid should encourage individuals to access needed health and mental health care early. Protecting NEMT benefits is an important way to help people get they services and supports they need and avoid negative long-term health care outcomes.

What We’ve Done: