Traveling can be expensive. An expense not everyone can afford.
This type of unplanned medical expenditure frequently consumes monthly household budgets, adding financial burden to an already uncertain situation. Despite the severity of the medical condition, many patients make the difficult decision to ignore doctor referrals and forego out of area treatment. simply because of limited finances.
For those in need of financial assistance, medical center social work departments and nonprofit organizations may offer travel funds that provide some short-term help. Keep in mind not all patients will qualify for charitable assistance. However, the inability to qualify does not diminish the need, but suggests that another resource would be more suitable and available.
For those patients with private health insurance, reimbursement of covered lodging and travel expenses may be an option. Since each policy is different, it is important to speak to the patient’s case manager to determine if this benefit is available.
The Medicaid recipient and their caretaker traveling to receive medically approved treatment may also be eligible to receive reimbursement for lodging, meals, and transportation as cited under federal regulation 42CFR440.170. Don’t be surprised if your state or local Medicaid office, or social worker is unfamiliar with this benefit. Many state Medicaid plans incorrectly exclude this regulation, ultimately denying recipients their possible Medicaid benefits. For that reason, the staff of Hospital Traveler is working diligently to make sure that each state provides exceptional transportation benefits to eligible recipients.
Advocate for a proactive out-of-area referral process. Advocate for your patients and their families.
Establish an out-of-area referral protocol by contacting organizations in locations where you most often refer patients. Take the time and effort to create an up to date listing of available funding and travel resources so you can inform your patient.
While your patient may qualify for reimbursement under private insurance and/or Medicaid programs, there is no guarantee they will be able to utilize the benefit. Patients who have limited financial resources at the beginning of the referral process will have the same limited resource throughout the process. Therefore, a reimbursement program, while a wonderful benefit, is only useful if you can afford the upfront expenditure.