Free Inter-county Transport for Medicaid Patients, First in Michigan

A new service will help Medicaid patients travel between three northern Michigan counties.

It will be free to those who use it.

“Beginning this week, we are teaming up with (Bay Area Transportation Authority) and Manistee Dial-a-Ride to offer medical rides free of charge to anyone that is Medicaid eligible,” Benzie Bus Lead Dispatcher Nancy Hunt said.

It’s the first free inter-county Medicaid patient transport in Michigan, according to Hunt. She says it’s a much needed service.

“About one-third of Benzie County residents are Medicaid eligible, so this will be a big help for those relying on the bus or other people to get to their medical rides.”

The Department of Health and Human Services is paying for the rides, which will take patients from Benzie County to Manistee and Grand Traverse counties.

“Since Grand Traverse County is one of the hub places where the medical and health facilities are at, it just made sense for us to be a part of this partnership,” BATA Marketing Manager Eric Lingaur said.

A benefit to health care providers as well — who will likely see fewer cancellations.

“I’ve had an outpouring of phone calls. People just wanting to find out information and how to become eligible for it,” Hunt said.

They’re expecting an average of 200 people a week to take advantage of the free rides.

And if numbers hit expectations…

“Depending on the interest and involvement with the service, we might expand this into the counties that we serve, into Grand Traverse and Leelanau County in the next year or two,” Lingaur said.

Rides are available Wednesdays and Fridays to Grand Traverse County 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays to Manistee County 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Transport within Benzie County will be available six days a week.

“Being able to provide a free service like that and get them to the doctor, get them to appointments on time will not only improve their health, but improve the health of the community.”

In order to take advantage of the free service, you must call DHS to become qualified. The phone number is 231-941-3900. You may also call Nancy Hunt from Benzie Bus at 231-325-3000.