Getting to and from the hospital for treatment can be a major problem
for some people who feel too sick to drive or who don't have family
members to help them. This is especially true for people receiving
daily radiation therapy.
The availability of transportation services varies from community to
community, but most fall into one of three categories: volunteer
programs, transportation through community agencies, and private
Volunteer Programs: In some communities, local religious groups and
community agencies offer volunteer transportation services. Volunteers
take people to and from treatment centers and other medical
facilities. If you want this service, you must call in advance,
usually 48 hours, to make arrangements.
Transportation Services Through Community Agencies: This service is
free to those who meet the eligibility criteria. These criteria vary
depending on the community agency that funds the service.
Private Transportation Services: Two kinds of private
transportation services are available, depending on whether the person
with cancer is able to walk. If you can walk, transportation is
provided by a van, and several people may ride in the van at the same
time. These companies are subsidized through the Pennsylvania Lottery
and offer transportation for a reduced fee for people over 65.
If you are unable to walk, ambulance service is available, either
through a community or private service. Ambulance services base their
fees on a predetermined rate schedule. In small communities the
estimated base fee is between $40 and $80, plus a per-mile charge (the
average is $1 per mile). In metropolitan areas, the estimated fee
ranges between $70 and $150, with an additional charge of about $2 per
mile. Rates vary from one ambulance company to another. Check with the
company you choose about its rates. Also ask if the company is willing
to bill Medicare, Medical Assistance, private insurance, or another
payment source directly.
HOW TRANSPORTATION SERVICES CAN HELP
- Car transportation to and from the hospital for doctor's visits
and chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Some programs offer
transportation only to medical-care or treatment facilities. Others
also offer transportation to social-service agencies and shopping
- Ambulance transportation for admission to or discharge from the
HOW DO YOU FIND THESE SERVICES?
- Contact the social worker at your hospital or call 1-800-4-CANCER
or 1-800-537- 4063 for resource listings.
- Volunteer transportation services are often available from local
churches, organizations, or your American Cancer Society.
- For transportation services sponsored by community agencies,
contact your Area Agency on Aging, Department of Public Welfare, or
your local ACS unit.
- For private transportation services, look under "Ambulance
Services" in the Yellow Pages of your phone book.
- With volunteer transportation services, you may have to share a
ride with other persons being transported to the same facility. This
may mean a short wait until the other passengers have received their
treatment before returning home. Also, you may not be able to take
family members along. Check with the person who will provide the
- You may qualify for transportation services even if you are not
eligible under Area Agency on Aging or Department of Public Welfare
criteria. Check with the transportation provider. A letter from your
doctor is usually required. It should state that you are unable to
walk and therefore cannot be transported any other way.
- Some insurance companies pay for transportation by ambulance.
Check if yours covers this service.
- Some hospitals provide vans to transport patients to their
facilities. Check with your doctor, nurse, or the social worker to see
if your hospital provides this service.
- Medicare will not pay for ambulance transportation from your home
to your doctor's office. It may help pay for ambulance transportation
to the hospital or a skilled nursing facility, between the hospital
and skilled nursing facility, from the hospital or skilled nursing
facility to your home, if transportation in any other vehicle could
endanger your health. You will need a letter of medical necessity from
your doctor. If you are unable to walk and you need daily radiation
therapy, you may be covered under Medicare if your doctor writes a
letter of medical necessity.
- Don't hesitate to ask family and friends for help with your
transportation needs. People don't want to take advantage of others,
but often they want to help, and this would provide them with the
- Some local ACS units will arrange for volunteer drivers or will
reimburse you at a set rate per mile for distance traveled to
Frequently Asked Questions
National Cancer Institute