ELIZABETHTOWN — Private taxi companies that have sprung up around Essex County to take Medicaid patients to doctor’s appointments need more regulation, county lawmakers say.
Countywide licensing and safety inspection of the cabs should be considered, Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) recommended.
“We seriously should consider some kind of licensing for cab companies,” he said at a recent County Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee meeting.
Complaints have ranged from too many passengers in a taxi to unsafe vehicles being used, he said.
Essex County Department of Social Services Commissioner John O'Neill said the state contracts with a private firm that schedules and dispatches the cabs for Medicaid Program beneficiaries to get to and from medical appointments.
Medical Answering Services LLC of Syracuse is the company that handles Medicaid transportation coordination statewide, including for Essex, Clinton and Franklin counties.
The company does not do the actual transport but contracts with businesses or individuals that provide the rides.
“We have had a number of complaints about the taxi services,” O’Neill told supervisors.
“Ticonderoga did pass a local law to have some control," he said. "You might want to consider doing something similar to Ticonderoga so you have some control.”
The issue isn’t as great in larger communities, such as Plattsburgh, where taxi services are already regulated by local ordinances.
County Manager Daniel Palmer said he’s not sure whether the county can control how businesses such as the cabs operate within certain jurisdictions, so they’d have to check on that. Palmer said the taxis are required to be licensed by the state.
Towns like Ticonderoga can regulate them with local laws, and Supervisor Joseph Giordano (R-Ticonderoga) said their local law seems to be working well within his community.
“There has to be some accountability here,” Scozzafava said. “We need a uniform, countywide regulation.”
Supervisor Charles Harrington (R-Crown Point), who chairs the Human Services Committee, advised Scozzafava to come back to the committee with a recommendation.
After the meeting, Scozzafava said he’s not trying to single anyone out.
“I’m sure some (cabs) do a great job; some don’t do such a great job. There needs to be uniform regulations in regards to these.
"The major concern is the safety of the passengers, and the expenses that are occurred, because it’s the taxpayers who are paying for this.”
The State Department of Health has been phasing in new funding and administration structures for Medicaid non-emergency medical transports, which had the effect of making it more lucrative for providers in rural areas like Essex County.
According to the State Department of Health fee schedule, Medicaid pays a base price of $44.37 a trip for the rides in Essex County.
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