Senate passes Sen. Maxmin bill to help older and disabled Mainers in rural communities

Fri, 06/04/2021 - 11:45am

AUGUSTA — The Senate approved Thursday a bill sponsored by Senator Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, authorizing a pilot project to provide nonmedical transportation services for people receiving certain services under MaineCare.

An amended version of 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,” received unanimous, bipartisan support in the Senate.

“Today’s vote brings us one step closer to beginning this critical pilot project,” said Sen. Maxmin. “A lack of transportation, and the isolation it causes, affects every part of our lives, including our physical, mental and emotional health. For Mainers with disabilities and for older Mainers, transportation options are even fewer and further between. By operating a pilot project that gives these folks more resources to get where they need to go and to be a part of our communities, we can see if expanding transportation services for MaineCare recipients is the right choice for Maine.”

As amended, LD 17 would require the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to launch a pilot project that would provide nonmedical transportation for some recipients of MaineCare.

Qualifying recipients are elderly Mainers or Mainers with disabilities who would otherwise require nursing facility care but can remain at home with support.

These recipients currently qualify for medical transportation services as part of their benefits. The bill also authorizes a robust study of the pilot project to look at the medical and social benefits of providing nonmedical transportation to these MaineCare recipients.

DHHS would then submit a report regarding the costs, effectiveness and future viability of the project to lawmakers by December 2024.

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, according to a news release. 

The bill faces further votes in the Legislature.