Carlton County willing to pay the price for volunteers who drive to medical visitsCarlton County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to help reimburse volunteers who drive elderly or disabled Medicaid clients to and from medical appointments.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Carlton County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to help reimburse volunteers who drive elderly or disabled Medicaid clients to and from medical appointments.
Carlton County Financial Assistance Supervisor Jan Rabideaux explained to commissioners that counties are required to administer Access Transportation Services (ATS) to those clients who are unable to drive themselves.
She said Carlton County currently accesses
volunteer drivers for that purpose through the Human Development Center in Cloquet and Volunteer Services of Carlton County.
Up until now, Rabideaux pointed out, reimbursements to volunteer drivers have been made at the IRS rate, currently 50 cents per mile, for all miles driven by volunteers – both when the client is in the vehicle on the way to and from an appointment as well as the miles the volunteer incurs while on the way to and from pickup,
She said though the amount paid to volunteer drivers has traditionally been considered a reimbursable ATS expense, counties recently received a clarification stating that federal regulations do not allow for the reimbursement of the “unloaded” miles through federal funding.
“The issue of not being able to claim reimbursement for the unloaded miles is of great concern to counties throughout the state,” said Rabideaux, “and in particular, greater Minnesota, where volunteers have to drive significant miles just to pick up clients.”
She informed commissioners that several counties in the region have begun using county funds to reimburse the unloaded miles volunteer drivers must travel to pick up those needing to get to medical appointments. She then requested that, in an effort to keep the volunteer driver programs viable, the county consider reimbursing volunteer drivers for the unloaded miles they drive at a rate of 20 cents per
Rabideaux said the estimated cost of taking on such an expense would be $10,000 to $15,000 per year. She added that for the balance of this year, the amount could come from the Carlton County Human Services fund balance, and beginning in 2011, she advised it be worked into the Health and Human Services budget.
The board unanimously concurred with the move, and Commissioner Ted Pihlman commented, “These folks perform such a valuable service to the county. I truly believe it will be money well spent.”