How to choose the best NEMT broker for your health plan

by Gabriel Rojas

Offering great non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) benefits are a win for everyone. They drastically help improve patient outcomes which also reduces long-term costs for health plans. But selecting an NEMT broker for your health plan isn’t always easy.

There are dozens of NEMT brokers, some are Medicaid transportation brokers (focused only on Medicaid), others are Medicare Advantage transportation brokers (focused only on Medicare Advantage), and others service all lines of business. Each offering its own unique take on the best way to handle patient transportation. When health plan executives come to us, they’re often worried about picking the wrong partner, usually because of their bad experiences with their current NEMT broker.

Every health plan is unique, and your NEMT needs may depend on the states you operate in, your member demographics, and the size of your operation. But in most cases, every plan administrator will benefit from getting answers to a handful of questions when vetting potential NEMT brokers.

 

What types of transportation can a NEMT broker offer to your plan’s members?

It doesn’t take long before you realize that not all NEMT offerings are created equal. One broker might focus mainly on ambulatory transportation, while another offers a whole suite of transportation levels, ranging from curb-to-curb transportation to Advanced Life Support (ALS) services. Before even considering a broker, you need to create a list of all the transportation accommodations your plan members might need:

  • Do they need wheelchair-accessible vehicles?
  • Do they need drivers to help them exit the car and enter a building?
  • How often, on average, do they require basic life support or stretchers?
  • Will drivers need to help patients who have cognitive, sensory, or communication impairments?
  • Do you need a NEMT broker that can help process mileage reimbursements for friends or family members who drive plan members?

These are just some things to consider before scheduling meetings with potential brokers.

 

What social proof can a potential NEMT broker provide?

One of the first things you should keep an eye out for when vetting a potential NEMT broker is indisputable evidence that they’re good at what they do. Look for industry awards, member satisfaction scores, complaint rates, and other key performance indicators. If you can find testimonials from plan members or administrators, even better. However, they may need to be anonymized and only provided when requested to ensure data privacy. 

While you’re at it, ask brokers about past clients who turned out to be a bad fit and why that was the case. What sort of assumptions have previous plan administrators left unspoken until it was too late? NEMT brokers have just as much vested interest in developing healthy long-term partnerships as you do. And that means getting everything out in the open as early as possible.

 

How does a NEMT broker structure its pricing?

Misunderstanding cost structures and estimates are common reasons that plan administrators feel they picked the wrong NEMT broker. To avoid confusion surrounding fee-for-service vs capitation arrangements or how transportation benefits are funded (federal/state government programs, transportation/public health grants, etc.), administrators must be crystal clear about their plan’s needs and expectations. 

When meeting with potential brokers, ask them what tends to cause the most confusion when dealing with funding and pricing. What are the things that their previous clients have misunderstood? And remember, costs are only part of the equation. What sort of savings can a broker claim to deliver? 

 

How robust and user-friendly is a NEMT broker’s app?

It’s not uncommon for non-emergency medical transportation brokers to succeed or fail based primarily on how well they integrate technology into the member experience. Receiving a hands-on demonstration of how a prospective broker’s app or member portal works is non-negotiable during the vetting process and should cover a variety of topics:

  • Does the app include real-time trip monitoring and GPS tracking?
  • What sort of reporting and analytics are included?
  • How does the app handle late driver reassignments?
  • What features are included to track complaints and grievances?
  • Can members schedule trips far in advance or book recurring trips?

App demonstrations are some of the quickest ways to either shortlist or delist potential NEMT brokers. Because it doesn’t take long to get a feel for how user-friendly a mobile app is. What’s more, demos and walkthroughs are fantastic inspirations for questions and requests you may not have thought to ask. “Oh, that reminds me, can members request a trip from the app? Show me how that works.” Of course, you should never deprioritize or sweep questions about data security and compliance under the rug.

 

What level of support does a NEMT broker provide to plan members?

Safe, convenient, and reliable transportation options are critical to improving patient outcomes and containing plan costs. And there’s no way to achieve that without redundant support systems for plan members. For example, an elderly patient may struggle with navigating mobile apps and prefers to speak with someone on the phone. Or a Medicaid patient may not have access to a smartphone at all. 

In cases like these, you need a NEMT broker with dedicated call centers staffed by knowledgeable and friendly agents. Call centers act as a safety net to ensure that members feel taken care of and receive the individual support they need.

 

Put together a plan to pick the best NEMT broker

With the help of these questions and considerations, plan executives can feel confident and in control when picking a NEMT broker. To get really organized, start by listing of the brokers you’re considering in a spreadsheet. Using the questions and considerations from this article, and others you may have, create columns for your top priorities (transportation features, app user-friendliness, member support, etc.) and go column by column, ranking potential brokers in each of your priorities. If that doesn’t lead you to settle on a single option – it should at least significantly narrow down your list!

 

Alivi is an award-winning third-party administrator that helps health plans build and manage supplemental and value-based benefits. Alivi’s non-emergency medical transportation solution is the highest performing and we guarantee we will meet all service level agreements. We make it easy for plans to address social determinants of health, promote member engagement, and enhance member experiences. If you’d like to see how we can give you a competitive advantage in your market, schedule a demo today!

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