Two transportation directors in Colorado who utilize tracking software and RFID cards to gather accurate, real-time data on students with special needs for Medicaid reimbursement dollars say using technology instead of paper logs is a quantum leap forward, and has helped streamline processes for their staff.
Data from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services indicates that the federal expenditure for school-based services in FY-2013 totaled $1.18 billion. Specialized transportation funding made up $94.5 million of that total, including $54.8 million in federal Medicaid dollars, but those funds were divided among only 12 states.
David Anderson, director of transportation at Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo., noted that his schedulers in dispatch have experienced the biggest changes in their duties and capabilities.
“If they need to know where a bus is, they pull it up. Things they used to do, like going through hundreds of paper logs, we’re doing differently now. We’ve eliminated all that paper and a lot of mistakes," he said.
Gene Hammond, transportation director of Falcon (Colo.) School District 49, said the district didn’t shift any department personnel as a result of the system.
“What it did was free up people who were already on the clock, so they didn’t have to work at this constantly. It precluded them from having to manually enter data into a spreadsheet part-time,” he said. “Data is exported to a spreadsheet and emailed to the district Medicaid program coordinator. So, it's helping us make better use of people’s time.”
He continued: “It wasn’t the original intent of Zonar [with its ZPass] but it's hard not to leverage the technology. It's more efficient and more accurate. And, because [Medicaid is] a federal program, [the data] needs to be correct and stand up to audit."
For districts that are still working with paper, Hammond recommended electronic tracking, but encouraged peers to weigh all the factors.
"We were about making it work electronically because we already had the system and were able to leverage what we had. If you start at zero, you'd have to look at what kind of investment it would take to add it to special needs buses. There are upfront capital costs of installing that equipment, so each district would have to look at it in terms of how long it would take to get a return on investment," Hammond explained. "If I didn't have Zonar in place, we'd be doing it by paper. I just don't know any other way to do it."
Anderson's advice to districts that are already using electronic tracking: Always check your documentation.
"Always do a check and balance to make sure the scanners are working properly. Maintenance is very important to your system. We do our maintenance through our fleet department. I try to make sure we're operational at all times," he said.
For more information on how the two school districts are using technology for Medicaid reimbursements for transporting students with special needs, read “Getting Your Fair Share,” in the February Special Needs issue.