Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken introduced legislation that would ensure that volunteers who provide low-income seniors with rides to medical visits are reimbursed for their entire trip, meaning more volunteers will be available to provide rides. Currently, Medicaid rules only allow states to reimburse volunteer drivers when the patient is in their vehicle, meaning that many drivers are only reimbursed for a portion of their mileage. As a result, many drivers have chosen to stop volunteering because of rising fuel costs.
"Many rural seniors struggle to get to doctors' appointments because they have to travel dozens of miles, and thousands of volunteer drivers make life easier by providing door-to-door service," said Sen. Franken. "But right now, the government only reimburses these drivers for their mileage when the patient is actually in the car. That forces them to pay for the rest of their gas, and often forces them to stop volunteering - and it means the government often has to pay for a taxi. That's wrong, and my legislation would fix that, making it easier for more neighbors to lend a helping hand."
The Recuiting Individuals to Drive Our Elders (RIDE) Act would allow states to reimburse volunteer drivers for miles they drive in order to get to a Medicaid beneficiary's home, or to return home after volunteering. This would allow states to make use of more volunteer drivers, reducing those states' dependency on taxis and other more-expensive options.