Accessing Transportation Resources To and From Treatment

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW
Last Reviewed: July 11, 2022

Considerations for Traveling by Car

  • Parking
    • Is there free or discounted parking available?
    • If there is no free or discounted parking, be sure to budget for daily parking rates.
    • Can I walk from the parking area to the treatment center or do I need assistance?
  • Can I drive?
    • Your healthcare team may advise you NOT to drive based on your diagnosis (e.g. you've had a seizure due to a brain tumor) or medications you may be receiving (e.g. Benadryl during chemotherapy) which may impair your abilities. This may also be influenced by local laws regarding driving with certain medical conditions.
  • Comfort level with driving to your treatment center
    • For many, treatment centers are located in large urban areas. The idea of driving on a busy highway into town may be daunting for those who are not used to doing it regularly.
    • Time of day also greatly impacts your commute to treatment. Scheduling your chemotherapy at 9 am may be a challenge if you have to travel with rush hour traffic.
  • Other costs
    • Is your car a reliable and safe means of transportation?
    • Frequent trips to treatment mean frequent trips to the gas station; budgeting accordingly for this expense is key.
    • Consider if friends & family can take turns driving and accompanying you – and picking up the tab for parking, as this can be a big help financially.

Considerations for Traveling by Public Transportation

  • Is your treatment center located near a public transportation stop (bus, subway, train)?
  • Are you able to walk between the stop and your treatment center or is there a shuttle?
  • Does your local public transportation system offer discounts or free fares for the disabled or those over 65?

Considerations for Traveling by Ambulance

  • MOST insurance companies do not pay for non-emergency ambulance transportation. There can be some exceptions based on medical necessity (for example, the patient is unable to bear weight, or the patient requires oxygen which cannot be delivered by portable means).
  • Be sure to check your insurance benefits BEFORE setting up ambulance transportation.
  • Work with a local ambulance provider; many offer discounted services for private, pre-paid transportation services.
  • Ambulance companies typically charge a base fare plus a per-mile fee for transportation.

By Paratransit/Wheelchair Van Services

  • Many ambulance companies also offer paratransit and/or wheelchair van services for private pay costs and these are usually much less expensive than ambulance transportation.
  • Paratransit/wheelchair vans are not normally staffed by EMT-trained drivers.
  • These services are curb-to-curb. The drivers do not come into the home, supply wheelchairs, or other assistive devices. The driver's hands-on assistance to the patient is limited. Thus, the patient needs to be able to get out of their residence and be ready to be picked up at the curb/driveway and get themselves into the appointment.

Ride-Sharing Services

Some cancer treatment centers have partnered with ride-sharing services to provide transportation to appointments. Ask your social worker or navigator if this is available at your center.

  • LYFT is a service (accessed using a smartphone app) that matches drivers with cars (individuals not associated with a larger car service company) with people who need transportation.
    • Drivers are vetted by Lyft and are insured. They are individuals with cars looking for another way to make income.
    • You must have a smartphone with the Lyft app to use the services.
    • These services are paid for by the patient.
    • Prices are based on distance traveled; all transactions are managed through a linked credit card, so you don't need cash on hand to travel.
  • UBER is a service (accessed using a smartphone app) that matches those in need of transportation to drivers.
    • There is an Uber driver for every size of party traveling, including SUVs and cars outfitted with car seats for those traveling with children.
    • Uber drivers are vetted by Uber and are fully licensed and insured; however, by and large, the drivers are employed by local car service companies.
    • You must have a smartphone with the Uber app to use the services.
    • These services are paid for by the patient.
    • Prices are based on distance traveled and the tip is included; all transactions are managed through a linked credit card or Paypal account, so you don't need cash on hand to travel.
    • UBER gift cards are a great tool if people are looking for ways to help you get to appointments, but may not be able to drive you.

Private Drivers/Limo Service/Cabs

  • Check local listings for these services.
  • Some companies may be willing to make special arrangements for multiple repeat trips to the same location.
  • Ask your social worker for recommendations.
  • These services are paid for by the patient.

When you Live in a Suburban/Rural area

  • Strategize with your social worker and your community supports to assist with transportation arrangements.
  • Think about the feasibility of getting to a public transportation hub from your home.
    • Perhaps a volunteer driver doesn't want to drive into the city but would be happy to drive you to the train station/bus stop.

Insurance Sponsored Transportation

  • In many states, individuals with Medicaid are eligible for free or low-cost transportation to and from medical appointments.
    • Ask your social worker to help link you to local Medicaid-related transportation services.
    • Be aware that many of these services offer limited transportation across county/state lines.
  • Some insurance companies offer transportation benefits; contact your insurance company directly.
    • Inquire with your insurance company if you have coverage for non-emergency paratransit or wheelchair transportation to medical appointments.
    • Be sure to ask if you have a limited amount of rides per calendar year/benefit period.
    • These rides, as a rule, need to be arranged with the insurance company's transportation department 3 days (72 hours) BEFORE your scheduled appointment.


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