The Anne Arundel County health department, joining a growing number of agencies that are privatizing some services, turned over to a Baltimore-based company last week a program that provides transportation for Medicaid recipients.
Yellow Transportation Inc. began dispatching its vans and sedans to county residents who have valid Maryland Medical Assistance cards and who have no other way to get to doctor's appointments.
"This is the transportation of last resort," said Douglas Hart, director of administration for the health department.
As part of the $498,000 contract for the next year, Yellow Transportation has the responsibility of screening clients to assure that only those who truly have no other means of transportation are being served. The money comes from a state grant administered by the county.
"If they know there is a bus line that runs there, [the client] will be told they have to take the bus. And if you live with a relative with transportation, you would have to use that," Mr. Hart said.
Even with the restrictions, county officials estimate that the pool of 14,000 medical assistance recipients will account for 20,000 trips this year.
When the state operated the program in the 1992 fiscal year, 11,651 clients took 34,000 trips, Mr. Hart said.
Because of hard times in recent years, the state has cut the program almost in half. Eventually, it was handed over to local governments.
"When you give it to the locals, we're able to do a better job of monitoring it," Mr. Hart said.
The transportation program was shifted from the state to the county Department of Aging in February.
To privatize the program in the fiscal year that began last week, the county health department solicited bids and selected Yellow Transportation, which made the second-lowest bid.
Yellow Transportation, which operates nearly 700 vehicles in Maryland, was selected because of the combination of its low bid and its experience in medical transportation.
"This is an area we have experience in, as we have been providing transportation for medical assistance recipients for over 10 years for the various health care providers," said Mark Joseph, president of Yellow Transportation.
Mr. Joseph said he was able to make a low bid because the size of his company allows him to spread out his overhead, such as the $200,000 worth of computer equipment he needs to route the drivers.
"If we had to do it for this contract alone, we would not be able to afford it," he said.
To inquire about the Medical Assistance Transportation Service, call Yellow Transportation at 761-9443. Residents who live south of Edgewater should call 741-5112.