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Safety and Medicaid NEMT are Top Issues as The Transportation Alliance Takes Capitol Hill

The rubber meets the road when our members hit Capitol Hill.

The Transportation Alliance held its annual Legislative Fly-In on June 5. Transportation leaders from around the country held more than 50 policy meetings with Congressional members on the Hill to underscore our industry’s two main legislative priorities at the moment,

First, The Alliance is urging Congress to pass legislation ensuring Medicaid Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) remains protected in order to continue serving the 3.6 million low-income Americans who depend on it for lifesaving medical appointments and treatments.

Second, The Alliance is urging Congress to create legislation requiring that for-hire drivers funded by federal dollars undergo an FBI fingerprint-based background check and drug and alcohol screening to keep passengers safe.

Third, our members called for the General Services Administration to give more time for our industry to respond to a draft request for proposals for procuring transportation services for federal employees in 50 U.S. cities. Three offices we met with issued letters to GSA on the same day we met with them.

Prior to heading out for their individual meetings, members heard from two Congressional representatives. Representative Sandford Bishop (D-GA), who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, discussed efforts to protect NEMT funding.

Photo: Rep. Sandford Bishop and Terry O'TooleRepresentative Bishop and The Transportation Alliance recently participated in an important victory for NEMT, Bishop said. Bishop sent a letter (signed by 60 organizations) to Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) opposing changes to Medicaid regulations that would have allowed states to eliminate NEMT.

“This change would have wreaked havoc on the delivery of healthcare, especially in rural areas,” Bishop said. Some 60,000 individuals fighting the most chronic of health conditions—cancer, HIV, substance-abuse disorder, and end-stage renal disease—would not have been able to travel to pharmacies, he said.

“Ending Medicaid coverage would literally have been a matter of life and death for these individuals,” Bishop said.

The result of Representative Bishop’s effort was legislative language in the appropriations bill to block funding of the implementation of this rule change. Following the inclusion of this language, Bishop’s office received word that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would not promulgate the rule until at least after 2020.

“When we act, together, we can delay and stop bad policy and protect our most vulnerable citizens,” Bishop said.

Bishop also applauded The Transportation Alliance for advocating fingerprint background checks and drug testing for drivers who provide passenger transportation funded by federal dollars, calling it “common sense.”

Next up, Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), who serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, also addressed The Transportation Alliance members. Last year, Dingell introduced legislation on autonomous vehicles that unanimously passed the House before stalling in the Senate.

Dingell emphasized the need for national policy frameworks for autonomous vehicles.

“What role is the federal government going to have?” Dingell asked. “What role will the states have? What are the liability issues going to be? What are the safety issues?”

Dingell said she is not optimistic there will be an autonomous bill this Congress, but she’ll continue to press for the regulatory framework.

Graphic: Legislative Fly-InDingell does not believe, as she had previously, that AVs will be prevalent soon. “It’s not going to be three years (from now),” she said. “Consumers don’t have the confidence, and we don’t have the infrastructure.”

“If Uber can’t get you to the right place with a driver in the car, we’re not ready for driverless cars,” she added.

Dingell also expressed concern that the US is falling behind China and Europe on electric vehicles. The US needs improved infrastructure for “carbonless” vehicles and reasonably priced batteries offering longer vehicle ranges. This delay could not only make America and its manufacturers substantially weakened trade partners in the future, but “our lagging investment in electric vehicles is a national security issue,” Dingell said.

Member response to the Legislative Fly-In was overwhelmingly positive. We want to thank the many elected leaders and their staff members who helped make our efforts worthwhile.

“When we work to help our officials in Washington understand the ground truth on transportation, we all help strengthen this great country of ours,” said Terry O’Toole, president of The Transportation Alliance. “Thank you to all our members who came to Washington with their ideas, their concerns and their considerable expertise on important issues such as safety and protecting transportation for vulnerable Americans. It’s these men and women who are the true transportation leaders of our country.” 

By Dave Sutton

Posted 6/7/2019 4:59:09 PM
 

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