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Bethel cabs no longer accepting Medicaid vouchers

Cab companies in Bethel have decided to stop accepting Medicaid vouchers for payment. This is important because taxis are a main form of transportation to and from medical appointments for people who travel to Bethel for healthcare.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation got a call last week 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 claimed 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 is now offering more shuttle services to Medicaid patients instead of vouchers that would cover the cost of a cab. Mitchell Forbes, the director of communications at YKHC, 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.

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. He said that will be the solution for the future.

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