STATE—Efforts to delay a change in the format for Pennsylvania's Medical Assistance Transportation Program (MATP) pending further investigation into its impact on rural communities proved successful.

The office of Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) announced Friday that the state will wait to initiate the transition to a brokerage system until the impact on rural communities can be reviewed.

“There were serious flaws in what was about to take place,” Baker said in a release. “It may or may not work in the cities, but in smaller communities and rural areas it definitely has the possibility of driving up costs and hindering services to those relying on the system, such as people with serious medical conditions. Our seniors will be relieved this problem has been pushed off before they suffer any unintended consequences.”

The brokerage implementation review was granted via Senate Bill 695, the Human Services Code in the 2019-2020 Pennsylvania Budget suite.

The budget will be discussed at length in a future edition.

Provisions in the 2018-2019 State Budget approved last June required the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) to restructure the MATP system such that a regional statewide broker would manage it instead of a local operator.

As noted by the Wayne County Commissioners and other opponents of the regional shift in earlier articles, the central brokerage model would create a duplication of services with other transportation needs in the community--such as those for senior citizens—and increase costs for Pennsylvania taxpayers.

In May, the Commissioners signed a resolution voicing their opposition to the brokerage model.

The resolution notes MATP funding contributes over 35 percent of the funding for the Wayne County Transportation System (WCTS), helping it make more than 19,000 transports each year.

According to Senate Bill 695, the review will examine federal and state laws, regulations and policies regarding similar human services programs, and will observe other states' models of delivering non-emergency medical assistance transportation.

It will also analyze how effective and efficient the current program is, examine consumer impact, and weigh the positives and negatives of switching to a state-wide brokerage model.

A preliminary analysis is expected to be completed in 90 days with the full report due in December.

Wayne County Commissioner Wendell Kay noted the County is “...grateful for the delay in implementation...We hope that the result can be elimination of the proposed transition.”

He explained the Commissioners would be providing information to pertinent state offices and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) regarding the brokerage model's budget effect on the county, the confusion such a shift might cause, the percent of the population who use the service, and the impact the service has on MATP riders, drivers and other in the community.

As earlier reported, Senator Baker and Representative Jonathan Fritz (R-111) introduced legislation in April requesting this review process.

While those bills were not passed, their language and intent survive in Senate Bill 695.

Fritz stated in a release, “There is always concern when control is taken from local providers and given to a third party. The result, all too often, is a reduction in care and quality of service, as well as the ability to efficiently cater to the needs of the consumer.

“I was happy to work with Senator Baker in order to prevent implementation of a plan that could cause harm to our region’s residents.”

—Information from a release was used in this story.