Medical transport drivers take financial hit, worry about future

Updated: Dec. 16, 2020 at 1:54 PM EST
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CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - Some frontline workers have taken a pay cut. They’re now afraid they won’t be there when people need them most.

John Dragun’s Stagecoach ADK taxi gets people with Medicaid to medical appointments.

You have to like to drive and, he said, “You absolutely have to be a people person. If you don’t like people, you’re not going to have a good time doing this job.”

Dragun never considered quitting because of the pandemic. But he doesn’t know how much longer he can do this.

“I don’t know if I can survive. I don’t know if there’s enough money left over after paying all of the bills that come due to keep a car on the road,” he said.

In June, Medicaid cut reimbursements for medical transport drivers by 7.5 percent. This month they did it again.

When 7 News asked, the state Department of Health responded in part, “The Medicaid Redesign Team II put forward a number of proposals to reduce the growth in Medicaid spending...including a 15% reduction in the reimbursement rate that brings line with prevailing market rates for taxis used by the general public.”

Frary Medical Transport in Ogdensburg operates a full fleet of vehicles for medical transport. They’ve been hit with the same across-the-board cuts.

“I think a lot of people will reconsider whether they want to do this,” said Ryan Frary, owner, Frary Medical Transport. “And I don’t think there’s going to be anybody to fill their shoes.”

The reimbursement cuts have come on top of increased costs for providers due to the pandemic. Personal protective gear and insurance are just two.

So what’s ahead for these drivers and the people they transport? It’s something John Dragun worries about every day.

“At worst you have people not getting vaccinated because they can’t get a ride? That’s a horrible reason to not get a vaccination,” he said.

Dragun has written to Governor Andrew Cuomo and to legislators to overturn the cuts. He feels it’s his duty.

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