Archive for the ‘News’ Category

$1 trillion

That’s a lot of money and that’s the economic toll every year in the United States from motor vehicle crashes.

A recent study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2010 there were 32,999 fatalities, 3.9 million non-fatal injuries and 24 million damaged vehicles.

The Los Angeles Times reports that “Drunk driving alone, the report said, accounted for 18% of the total economic loss from motor vehicle crashes, costing the economy as much as $199 billion in direct and quality-of-life losses.

Speeding accounted for 21% of the total economic loss, responsible for as much as $210 billion in costs.

Distraction contributed another 17%.”

But the report does show that driving today is actually safer than in the past. “In 2011, 32,367 people died in U.S. automobile accidents, the lowest rate since 1949. Fatality rates per vehicle miles traveled fell in 2011 to 1.1 fatality per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from 1.11 in 2010. In 1949, when there were fewer people driving cars that were much less safe to drive, the fatality rate was seven times higher.”

And we worry when we get in a airplane.

Jan

Lifton letter

Thanks to Barbara Lifton for her advocacy on behalf on public transit in Cortland County.

Lifton letter 2.26.14

Good news about Gateway project

Yesterday it was announced that the City of Cortland will receive $544,000 in state grant money that will go toward completing the first phase of the Northeast Gateway and Clinton Avenue Corridor Enhancement Initiative.

The first phase includes streetscaping, new signs, trees, and lighting on the Tioughnioga River bridge. There will also be pedestrian improvements including sidewalk enhancements and crossing signals.

Funding came from the $67 million in state grants for bicycle and pedestrian pathways announced by Governor Cuomo.

Jan

Gas tax hike?

Some are suggesting an increase in the federal gas tax. It hasn’t been raised since 1993 and our roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair. Plus there are fewer people driving, higher gas prices, and more electric cars which all impact the bottom line.

Here’s a Slate article to digest.

What do you think?

Jan

What’s happening with public transit in Cortland County?

The news is out about what is happening with public bus service in Cortland County. Unfortunately much of what you hear and read is inaccurate. It’s a very complicated issue. I will try to set the record straight with this FAQ. If you have any other questions, let me know and I can address them in future blog posts.

Q. So, what’s going on?
A. Cortland County is in danger of losing their public transit system because of a New York State directed initiative, which has hired a private broker (MAS) to schedule Medicaid transportation.

Q. What is Medicaid?
A. Medicaid is a national health insurance program that is fueled by federal and state funds. The program, which began in 1965, is designed to help the needy have better access to health care.

Q. What is Non-Emergency Medicaid Transportation (NEMT)?
A. People who are on Medicaid are provided transportation to their medical appointments when they have no other means and seek prior approval. Some are reimbursed mileage for taking their own car, some are given tokens to ride a fixed route bus, and others are provided transportation in a Dial-a-Ride bus, in a taxi, or in an ambulette/ambulance, based upon their need. Transportation is provided because it doesn’t help to offer people medical care if they can’t get to that medical care.

Q. Who is MAS?
A. Medical Answering Services (MAS), out of Syracuse, is a private brokerage company contracted by the New York State Department of Health to handle the scheduling of Medicaid transportation in many counties throughout the state.

Q. Why did the State hire a private broker and how was Medicaid transportation handled before?
A. The State, through their Medicaid Redesign Team, created the broker system in the hopes of saving money on Medicaid transportation. Before the implementation of the broker system in Cortland County on October 1, 2013 the State Department of Health (DOH) reimbursed Cortland County’s Department of Social Services (DSS) to make this service available. This money was then used to contract with First Transit to handle all scheduling of and transportation to medical appointments for all Medicaid recipients. This funding, together with State Transportation Operating Assistance (STOA), provided the major portion of funding necessary to make a public transportation system that allowed Cortland County to serve Medicaid recipients needing to travel to medical appointments in a more cost effective manner.

Q. How long had that system been in place in Cortland County?
A. The reason why the transit system was created in this county in 1993 was due to the prohibitive cost of transporting Medicaid recipients in taxis and by county employees. It was less expensive to contract with a transit provider to provide transportation for Medicaid recipients and the county was able to provide transportation for many others in the community as well with the public transit system.

Q. So why is First Transit losing money?
A. MAS has been directed by the State DOH to find the least expensive mode of travel for Medicaid recipients. The rate that was negotiated by First Transit and DOH is higher than the taxi rate. (Remember the fare that you pay to ride the bus is not the true cost of that ride.) So MAS is scheduling many of these Medicaid recipients in taxis. First Transit is losing out on this revenue.

Q. Can a Medicaid recipient choose what mode of transport that he/she prefers?
A. When calling the MAS call center, you can request a certain mode but there is no guarantee that they will schedule you in that preferred mode. MAS has been instructed to use the cheapest mode of transportation and to the extent there is more than one provider in that mode, then people can choose.

Q. So how many people ride Cortland Transit buses?
A. Cortland Transit buses provide transportation, not only for Medicaid recipients to medical appointments, but for many others. Elderly people who can no longer drive depend on the bus system. Those who can’t afford a car, want to lower their commuting costs, or be environmentally more responsible use the bus to get to work. High school and community college students use the bus to get to school. People with disabilities are heavily dependent on the system. There are no wheelchair accessible taxis in this county. Many need the bus to get to the grocery store. There’s even a commuter bus that goes to Cornell University. In 2012, more than 181,000 rides were provided on Cortland County’s public transit buses.

Q. Will Cortland County lose their public transit system?
A. It is a possibility that First Transit could decide that they can no longer provide bus service based upon the amount of revenue coming in. There is also a possibility that they will remain but there might be a reduction in services.

Q. If the county loses transit, how will people get around?
A. Medicaid transportation is mandated, so Medicaid recipients would be placed in taxis if ambulatory. If someone is in a wheelchair, they would need to be transported by TLC or some other medical transport company. Many of these taxis and medical transport companies are being brought in by MAS from neighboring counties because Cortland County has so few companies that are certified to transport Medicaid recipients.
Remember that Medicaid transportation only provides transport to medical appointments for those on Medicaid. Anyone else who uses the bus to get to their medical appointments, to pick up their prescriptions, to go to work, to go to the grocery store, etc. would have to find another way to get there. And most likely it would be a much more expensive taxi service or medical transport company.

Q. What is being done about this situation?
A. The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) in Cortland County is a group of representatives from various community agencies and governmental departments who are committed to improving transportation options for all residents in our communities. We are under the direction of the Cortland County Planning Department and report to the Cortland County legislature. We are exploring alternative funding streams to make up for the lost revenue. We are contacting our elected officials to make sure they are aware of the situation and to ask for their help in finding a solution.

Q. Why should I care if I don’t use the bus?
A. “Public transit’s broad reach extends to all of America’s communities, large and small, as it helps revitalize business districts, allows employers to tap into larger workforces, builds economic revenues and increases property values. On the national level, public transportation supports our nation’s goals and policies, including reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and providing critical response in emergencies. On an individual level, public transportation saves money, and provides people with choices, freedom and opportunities.” – American Public Transportation Association

Q. What can I do?
A. If you are currently on Medicaid, it is important to call MAS to schedule transportation for your medical appointment. Even if you currently pay your own fare or use a monthly pass from an agency, MAS and DOH need to have accurate numbers of all those who are using the bus for their Medicaid transportation.

A. If you have any specific complaints about MAS or the mode of transport they assigned you, please contact MAS but let me know as well. I will make sure that complaints are passed on to DOH.

A. Also, contact your elected officials (city, county, state) and let them know how much you depend on public transit. Or if you don’t personally use the bus, how important public transit is to the community.

For more information give me a call at 607-756-4198 or email me at jdempsey@sevenvalleyshealth.org

Jan Dempsey

Deadly air

The air you breathe could be killing you. This report follows on the heels of a recent declaration by the World Health Organization that air pollution is a carcinogen.

Jan

Making sure that car you want to buy is safe

If you’re in the market for a used car, how do you know that it will be safe for you to drive? One way, obviously, is to have a trusted mechanic check it out.

But there’s another way. A new rule issued by the federal government, effective August 15, 2014, will require automakers and motorcycle manufacturers to provide information, updated weekly, on uncompleted vehicle safety recalls. And they will have to put the information online. You will be able to search by the VIN number and it will be free to access this information.

So you will be able to tell if there are safety hazards that were not taken care of by the previous owner. You can already access recall notices for your vehicle at safercar.gov.

Helps with that “peace of mind” thing.

Jan