County residents who use the Yadkin Valley Economic Development District Inc.’s (YVEDDI) transportation system will have a new rate structure to contend with.
According to Jeff Cockerham, public transportation director for the group, the change in billing methods was approved by the YVEDDI board of directors late last month.
“The change came as a response to audit requirements by the North Carolina Medicaid program,” he said.
Cockerham said comparing the old billing method to the new structure is like “comparing apples to oranges.”
“While they are different prices, they are also billed differently,” he said.
According to Cockerham, the old method was billed based on the total number of miles a passenger rode based on other trips made that day and the number of riders using the service that day.
“This could result in different charges each time the same trip was made based on the miles directly to the point of destination from the original pickup,” he said. “Under the new billing method, trips will be billed the same each time they are provided.”
If a passenger is picked up at their home and dropped off at a dialysis center, for example, Cockerham said each trip will now cost the same.
“Previously, that charge would vary based on the miles and passenger trips the vehicle travelled that day,” he said. “We are very pleased to be able to offer billing that is predictable and consistent.”
Before the change, riders were billed at $1.66 per vehicle mile plus the fuel surcharge that would vary day by day.
The new billing method charges for just the miles from the pick-up point to the destination.
The new rate will be $2.55 per mile for most agencies and $2.57 per mile for Medicaid trips, Cockerham said.
“The reason for the different rate for Medicaid is because of the extra expense in documentation and reporting of Medicaid trips,” he said. “Again, any comparison of the rates needs to keep in mind we will no longer be billing for empty miles or adding a fuel surcharge.”
According to the transportation director, the change is necessary for YVEDDI to remain viable and efficient.
“The cost of transporting individuals is going up,” he said. “To transport we need drivers. Drivers have salaries and benefits, that, along with the expense of operating the service has to be captured in our billing, which in some instances will be increasing due to the Affordable Car Act. This is something we have to do to survive.”
Cockerham said the non-profit organization isn’t trying to get rich off the backs of their customers.
“We compute a rate that will allow us to operate without losing money,” he said. “YVEDDI, as a nonprofit, isn’t trying to book back profits from the public, but we do try to build a small cushion in case there are unexpected expenses related to the transportation program.”
The agency, which serves Davie, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin counties, provides about 800 trips per day for services like medical appointments, dialysis, radiation and chemotherapy, nutrition services and shopping.
“We contract with school systems to provide trips for special needs students as well,” Cockerham said.
The new pricing structure took effect on July 1.
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.