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Florida Medicaid Decision Affects RTS Gainesville Paratransit Service

MV Transportation provides paratransit service to disabled people in Gainesville and Alachua County

MV Transportation provides paratransit service to disabled people in Gainesville and Alachua County.

The state of Florida’s decision to opt out of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will alter the application process for MV transportation, according to the Regional Transit System.

MV transportation is a private bus service through RTS for people with disabilities who are unable to use public transportation. The service picks up passengers from their homes.

Edgar Morales, a regular MV rider, said the service lets him be more independent due to his disability.

“I have seizures so I’m unable to drive. MV allows me to be able to get around without depending on other people,” Morales said. “I can do things the way that I want to and at the time that I want it.”

The paratransit service was mandated in 1990 with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide a bus service for disabled people in cities with a fixed bus route system. MV, the private company that provides the local service, is contracted through RTS.

People can qualify to ride MV through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Medicaid or Transportation Disadvantage.

Under the ADA, passengers must prove to be physically disabled and unable to ride RTS. There is a $3 fee each way, and it takes people to destinations within city limits.

The state of Florida provides Transportation Disadvantage, which requires people be unable to drive and 150 percent under the poverty level. With Transportation Disadvantage, people can ride MV even if they live outside the city limits — with a $3 fee.

To qualify for MV, people must have Medicaid that covers transportation. They can use it to go to a Medicaid appointment with a $1 fee each way.

Mark Mayfield, a consumer transportation advocate for the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida, reviews ADA applications. Mayfield said there are still people who need the service but aren’t in the system yet.

Paratransit serves 50 percent to 75 percent of all who require MV, but there are still people who need the service but don’t know about it or can’t access it. Making the application process harder would trap citizens in their homes, he said.

“If they can’t get to their doctor, it’s going to be a decline in health, potentially an even greater need for the healthcare their fighting against,” Mayfield said. “People didn’t get the preventative health, so they’re going to wait until they’re too sick and have to go to the ER for the health care. It’s going to be a vicious cycle.”

Morales said he rides MV every day to work at the Center for Independent Living, where he trains “hard-of-hearing” individuals to use special phones.

“Because of MV I’m able to say that I have been working here for 13 years. If I wasn’t able to have MV, that would be more difficult,” Morales said. “Some people don’t understand why you’re asking them for a ride. People don’t understand that sometimes; that because a disability, it impairs you.”

He said MV provides long-term help.

According to MV Transportation, it averages 10,000 trips a month. City, state and federal tax revenues fund the paratransit service. Gainesville recently voted to extend MV’s contract for another five years

Medicaid’s changes will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

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