Several U.S. lawmakers are looking to protect a Medicaid transportation benefit frequently used by nursing home residents as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services considers rolling back the protection. 

Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Tom Graves (R-GA) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) are seeking additional co-sponsors on a bill, Protecting Patients Transportation to Care Act (H.R. 3935), which aims to codify the Medicaid non-emergency medical transportation benefit. 

“The (NEMT) benefit provides beneficiaries with over 100 million rides to medical appointments each year,” they wrote in a dear colleague letter. “NEMT benefits are limited to Medicaid beneficiaries without their own means of transportation, and most states have NEMT benefit management programs in place to enforce that restriction as well as to ensure delivery of the lowest-cost appropriate mode of transportation.” 

CMS is reportedly planning to make it optional for states to provide NEMT for Medicaid beneficiaries. An estimated 10% of beneficiaries — many of them nursing home residents — rely on NEMT to get to medical appoints. 

The letter comes after a FY20 appropriations bill and report for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services was posted by the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday. The appropriations bill included $300,000 and language directing CMS to study the value of NEMT before publishing any regulation allowing states to drop the benefit. 

“Our bill would simply maintain the status quo. It would add NEMT services for individuals without other means of transportation to the list of mandatory benefits that every state Medicaid program is required to provide by law,” they wrote.