Bethel taxis stop taking Medicaid vouchers for medical trips

Cabs line up at the Bethel Airport’s Ravn terminal to take passengers to their destinations. (Photo by Amara Freeman/KYUK)

Cab companies in Bethel have decided to stop accepting Medicaid vouchers for payment. Taxis are a main form of transportation to and from medical appointments for people who travel to Bethel for health care.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. got a call this month from Kusko Cab owner Naim Shabani, who said that the Medicaid vouchers were too expensive. Shabani said that Medicaid’s growing list of regulations was the main reason they decided to stop accepting those vouchers.

“There’s a roughly 100-page handbook on being a Medicaid transportation provider. There’s a lot of regulations, so there’s not a specific regulation, but just over the years that they had to implement more and more and again,” Shabani said.

Shabani said that the cab company was losing money on the cab vouchers because of the amount of work it took to make sure the company followed regulations.

Kusko Cab is one of three taxi companies in Bethel, and Shabani said that the other cab companies are following Kusko’s lead. A call to a different taxi company, Alaska Cab, was not returned in time for publication.

YKHC spokesperson Mitchell Forbes confirmed that all of Bethel’s cab companies have decided not to accept Medicaid vouchers. He said that Medicaid patients will still see their full benefits.

“Just in Bethel’s case, there was the one vendor who is accepting the transportation vouchers. They are no longer accepting that voucher,” Forbes said.

YKHC is now offering more shuttle services to Medicaid patients instead of vouchers that would cover the cost of a cab.

Forbes said that YKHC has added shuttle service to hotels where Medicaid patients stay, in addition to adding more hours to its airport shuttle service for all YKHC patients.


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