New system in works for transporting needy rural Georgians to health care

By David Pendered

Georgia is heading toward a new model for transporting the poor, elderly and disabled from home to health care in rural Georgia.

A new system is needed simply because the costs are forecast to rise dramatically – up by 64 percent by 2030, according to a recent report to a committee of the Governors Development Council.

The new system seems likely to rely on the use of one entity to coordinate the overall transport system, which will continue to use a variety of local transport providers to transport rural Georgians.

State planners call this a “bundled” approach, because services now paid for by three state departments would be consolidated in some way.

Any changes are going to take at least a year to review and implement. But the state is moving toward creating a new system, and has been at work more than a year. GRTA planners have been gathering information about how other states provide transport, and developing ideas on how to incorporate them into Georgia’s new system.

Public comments are now being accepted on the new set of recommendations that are to be presented to the council, which is affiliated with GRTA.

David Cassell, a senior planner with GRTA, said at a recent meeting of the board that oversees GRTA that an ongoing study is showing that Georgia could improve its services to rural residents. The way to do that is by bundling providers who serve rural residents in the state’s current transport system.

Today, rural health transport is provided by three state agencies – the departments of transportation, human services, and community health.

On the current course, Cassell said, the program’s cost is forecast to rise from about $136 million a year, as in today’s figure, to about $223 million in 2030.

“Cost efficiency improvements are needed … to try to satisfy this potential increase in demand,” Cassell said.

Cassell said the study shows that Georgia should develop a preferred alternative for bunding the array of transport services that now are delivered in rural Georgia.

Three options within the recommendation include:

  • Having a single state agency oversee all funding;
  • Having the three existing state entities retain their funding and work together to bundle services;
  • Beginning with the smaller step of bundling funding from two of the three state departments in order to provide service at the local level.

Along with considering these recommendations, state officials should authorize the continued collection and analysis of information, Cassell said.

Finally, Cassell said, the state should create the position of mobility manager to oversee the future program and provide the expertise to manage it.

Public comments will be incorporated into a final version of the report, which will be presented by Sept. 1 to the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. OPB is to deliver a report to the Legislature by Jan. 15.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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