FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Putnam County Executive
Anthony Ruggiero, Commissioner
Planning, Development and Transportation
Vincent Tamagna, Chairman
Putnam County Transportation Task Force
June 26, 2013
County to Receive Full Reimbursement for Medicaid Eligible Transit
“I do not believe anyone asked the question.” – Commissioner Anthony Ruggiero
“The EI and Pre-K transportation issue will be a larger battle.” -Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell
Commissioner of Planning, Development and Public Transportation Anthony Ruggiero has negotiated a full-cost compensation to Putnam County from the NYS Department of Health for transporting its Medicaid Eligible recipients. Previous compensation from the state for the billed $37.33 one-way fare was $3.25.
“So it was costing Putnam County $34.08 per ride,” said Ruggiero.
Ruggiero defined a “ride” as an individual being picked up at a residence and taken to their destination, typically a medical appointment. The cost billed to County taxpayers for the ride was $34.08 with clients paying a $3.25 fare. A return ride, from to a residence, was billed at the same rate for a total cost to Putnam taxpayers of $68.16 per round trip.
But starting July 1, Putnam will be reimbursed by the state Dept. of Health for the entire cost of transporting its Medicaid Eligible residents.
During a conference call with the NYS Dept. of Health concerning the transport of Medicaid Eligible residents, Ruggiero raised the option of reimbursement from the state. By the end of their conversation, the NYS Dept. of Health agreed to a full compensation.
“What I’m finding out,” Ruggiero said “is that no one had thought to ask these kinds of questions before now. They just went ahead doing things as they had always been done. To me, these are simple questions. ‘Why can’t I do that?’ Now, if there’s a legitimate reason, that’s fine, but tell me what it is. Apparently there wasn’t any reason we shouldn’t be fully compensated. Now we will.”
“This was a perfect example of our being able to have a dialogue with Albany and once they understood they were responsible for the funding, the cost was lifted from our taxpayers’ shoulders,” Odell said. “It’s good to see Albany is beginning to accept some of this responsibility.”
A Transportation Task Force (TTF) was formed in January and charged with improving the county’s public transportation system. The TTF was led by Chairman Vincent Tamagna, a former Putnam County legislator. Providing affordable and reliable transportation for all residents of Putnam and best utilizing available resources to minimize costs and maximize efficiency was the mission of the task force. Ruggiero served on the TTF’s Advisory Board.
When Tamagna learned that the state Dept. of Health was going to suspend Medicaid transport service in Putnam starting June 1, he notified fellow Task Force member Tina Cornish-Lauria, executive director of CAREERS for People with Disabilities whose clients depend on this service. He later was able to inform her of the state’s decision to reinstate and fully compensate the program starting on July 1.
“Great news for Paratransit riders, as well as Putnam County taxpayers”, said Cornish-Lauria. “Paratransit riders are disabled and tend to have a lower income than most. They rely on the bus system for employment, medical appointments and shopping and don’t have alternative methods of transportation. The Task Force took our commission very seriously in an attempt to provide vital services to an underserved population and we are thrilled that the NYS Department of Health is supporting both riders and taxpayers by reinstating the Paratransit reimbursement at the full rate.”
“The Transportation Task Force had a thorough dialogue concerning how important it is to provide a reliable, affordable service and put people before cost,” said Tamagna. “However, we also felt strongly that we should negotiate with the NYS Dept. of Health so we could provide a service that would not impose an undue financial burden on the residents from these non-mandated transports.”
Tamagna said he and Ruggiero discussed the impending suspension of service. Ruggiero and Tamagna felt confident that the NYS Dept. of Health would regret their decision.
“No one can provide a better and more reliable service at such as reasonable cost,” said Tamagna referring to Putnam’s PART First Transit service. “Let MAS and New York State try it. They’ll be back.”
Ruggiero and Tamagna were right. The NYS Dept. of Health contacted them less than three weeks after taking over.
“For the people of Putnam, I am glad that we were able to shift the cost and for the people who need the service, I am glad we will once again provide the transportation. This has been a real win-win,” said Tamagna.
Odell would like to see further reductions in costly transportation particularly in the Early Intervention and Pre-Kindergarten programs where the amount of money spent in transporting the children exceeds the cost of educating them.
“The EI and Pre-K transportation issue will be a larger battle,” said Odell “but at least the state has recognized its obligation with regards to transporting our Medicaid Eligible residents.”