BH, Primary and Home-Care Providers Want Fair Share of Fidelis Windfall

NYAPRS Note: A coalition of NYS community-based primary care, home care, and behavioral healthcare service providers including NYAPRS have been working together to seek our fair share of a $2 billion state fund created from the sale of nonprofit health insurer Fidelis to for-profit Centene Corporation to address our full-scale workforce hiring and retention crisis. With 40% staff turnover rates and 10% vacancy rates, our groups are looking for immediate investments to help us hang on to our current dedicated community workforce. Specifically, we are seeking 25% of $675 million afforded to hospital and nursing home, amounting to $169 million, for retention bonuses and training to help reduce worker turnover and improve the quality of care. Here’s some recent media coverage. Stay tuned!

Behavioral Health, Home-Care Providers Want Piece of Fidelis Windfall
By Jonathan LaMantia   Crain’s Health Pulse   November 9, 2018

A group of associations representing community-based providers, including health centers, behavioral health nonprofits and home-care agencies, are calling on the state to set aside some of the $2 billion received from the sale of Fidelis Care to invest in its workforce.

The Cuomo administration increased the operating component of inpatient Medicaid rates to hospitals by 2% and nursing homes by 1.5%, effective Nov. 1, using $675 million from the money the state received as part of the $3.75 billion sale of Fidelis to Centene.

The provider groups said they should receive at least 25% of that total—$169 million—to use for retention bonuses and training, which would help reduce worker turnover and improve the quality of care.

As the state has encouraged more health care to be provided in community settings, money should follow those policies, said Lauri Cole, executive director of the NYS Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. She noted that mental health and substance-use providers are on the front lines addressing rising death rates from drug overdoses and suicides.

"When the state finds itself in the position with this money, the community-based side of the workforce finds itself more often than not receiving a pittance of what the hospital and institutional settings wind up with," Cole said…..

Without more funding, the nonprofits can't retain workers and risk losing them to hospitals, government agencies and even other industries, such as food service, because of the state's rising minimum wage, said Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.

"If we have constant turnover, these relationships are constantly disrupted, and it really compromises our ability to serve folks who are difficult to engage," he said.

The 11 groups calling for funding are the New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Home Care Association of New York State, the Community Health Care Association of New York State, the Mental Health Association of New York State, the Association for Community Living, the NYS Coalition for Children's Behavioral Health, the New York Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State, the Coalition for Behavioral Health, the NYS Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers and the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies. —Jonathan LaMantia

Health Care Providers Seek Medicaid Rate Increase
By Capital Tonight Staff Albany County November 14, 2018
New York's hospitals and nursing homes are getting more money for Medicaid services thanks to a recent move by Governor Cuomo. And now, other health care providers are asking for a similar increase.
Primary care, home care and behavioral health providers are calling on the Cuomo administration to take action to help them combat high employee turnover. It is a situation that some say has reached crisis levels.
Andrea Smyth of the Coalition for Children's Behavioral Health and Assemblyman John McDonald, a pharmacist, explain

November 15, 2018: State Health Resources
by TIM WILLIAMS  Capital Pressroom 
The Health Care Transformation Fund was created in the most recent state budget. The fund would dedicate resources to improving the transmission of health resources to New Yorkers that need it the most. Andrea Smyth, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health, discussed additional ways the resources can be used to better address the health needs of New Yorkers.

2019 is the Year for Real Criminal Justice Reform in NYS

NYAPRS Note: With a Democratic majority in the NYS Senate, this should be the year for real criminal justice reform in New York, especially given strong support by Assembly Leader Carl Heastie and Governor Cuomo. NYAPRS will be working very closely with our friends at the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement to win passage of the HALT bill, which will ban the use of solitary confinement with vulnerable groups.

Public Defender Groups Calling for Major Criminal Justice Reforms by State
By KENNETH LOVETT  New York Daily News  November 14, 2018

ALBANY — With the Democrats set to completely control state government beginning in January, five New York City public defender groups are calling on state leaders to push through long-stalled criminal justice reforms — including requiring the NYPD to release officer disciplinary records.

"With the landscape changing in Albany next year, the time for meaningful reform has finally come," the groups wrote in a letter to Gov. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Yonkers Democrat set to become the chamber's majority leader in January.

"Impacted communities and the greater public — your constituents — recognize the profound injustices that Albany has permitted to exist for decades, while other states have taken action to help fix the problems."

Signing the letter were the heads of the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, the Bronx Defenders, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and New York County Defender Services.

In addition to revising the decades old 50-a Civil Service law that prohibits the release of NYPD officer disciplinary records, the public defender groups also are pushing bail, speedy trial and discovery reforms.

They also are calling for passage of legislation that cleared the Assembly to end solitary confinement beyond 15 days. They want bills to ensure inmates have a "fair and meaningful opportunity for parole release" for those at least 55 years old who have served at least 15 years of their sentences and to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation for misdemeanors.

They also are calling on the Legislature to act to require judicial warrants for any courthouse arrests done by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, expand visiting opportunities in state prisons, restore free bus service for those visiting inmates, and legalize marijuana and vacate the records of those who have been busted previously for pot.

Many of the initiatives were routinely blocked in the Republican-controlled state Senate, which the Democrats grabbed control of for the first time in a decade in last week's elections. Cuomo is a Democrat and the party also controls the Assembly.

Cuomo and the legislative Democrats have said criminal justice reforms will be a priority in 2019.

Criminal Justice Activists Press New York State Lawmakers To Enact Bold Reforms
By Reuven Blau  NY Daily News  November 14, 2018

Criminal justice activists rallied Wednesday to press Democrats now in control of the State Senate to make bold changes liked ending bail and solitary confinement for prisoners.

“We want real change,” said Kassandra Frederique, director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “We want to disrupt the status quo.”

She spoke in front of about 30 activists pressing for sweeping reforms during a rally at Foley Square.

The group also called on state lawmakers to pass a bill to release prisoners 55 years and older who have served 15 years of their sentence.

“We need to tear this whole system down,” Frederique said. “That happens with courage. That happens with fortitude. It happens with us.”

The criminal justice activists also called for legislation to allow convicted felons to be granted voting rights.

The majority of their proposed changes have been nixed by the GOP state Senate for years.

Gov. Cuomo last year vowed to enact a series of criminal justice reforms, including the end of cash bail for nonviolent felonies.

The measure stalled in the state Senate.

Criminal justice reformers say Cuomo should have done more to press for change over the last eight years in office.

The Gov. has vowed to make criminal justice reform a top priority this legislative session.

He’s likely to face some opposition.

Law enforcement groups have traditionally lobbied against ending cash bail reform and the use of solitary confinement for more than 15 days.

That should not get in the way during this upcoming legislation, criminal justice reformers said.

“Our families are suffering and we can’t wait,” the activists chanted. “We’ve got to end mass incarceration in New York State.”

NYT: A Real Chance at US Criminal Justice Reform

A Real Chance at Criminal Justice Reform
Sessions is out. Trump is on board. It’s time to put these necessary changes into action
New York Times  November 15, 2018

Perhaps it’s a coincidence that a new criminal justice reform proposal has emerged in the Senate less than a week after the departure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

But Mr. Sessions — a devout reactionary on matters of criminal justice — never met a reform effort he didn’t want to smother. As a senator, he fought against comprehensive overhaul like the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. As attorney general, he pursued hard-line policies stuck in the 1980s, especially when it came to low-level drug offenses. Reform advocates speak of him with the same level of affection as gun-control advocates do Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s longtime frontman.

And now that Mr. Sessions is gone, a bipartisan collection of senators is pushing a plan that addresses some of the core shortcomings of an earlier House version of the legislation that was supported by the White House. The hope is to move the bill during the lame duck session, before the chaos of the new Congress, with its newly Democratic House majority, takes hold in January.

For this to happen, lawmakers say that President Trump must embrace the measure and nudge congressional Republicans to do the same. After being lobbied by Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, and various senators, Mr. Trump did just that at a White House event on Wednesday, praising members of both parties for “pouring their hearts” into the compromise and declaring the bipartisan effort “a nice first step.” In this early test, the president is signaling that he indeed wants to make progress on critical issues that enjoy broad support. Lawmakers from both parties should follow suit.

A crucial feature of the Senate plan, called the First Step Act, is the inclusion of so-called front-end reforms with the goal of a more rational sentencing process. The House version, passed in May, focused solely on “back end” reforms, such as improving prison conditions and easing inmates’ re-entry into society. But tending to the existing prison population without tempering the draconian sentencing laws that caused that population to explode in recent decades is, as Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has put it, “naïve and unproductive.” That’s why reform advocates saw the House bill as worse than nothing, a cheap attempt by Congress to move past the issue without addressing one of its core problems.

The Senate bill aims to be more comprehensive. It would reduce mandatory sentencing guidelines for certain drug crimes, allow judges greater wiggle room in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders, do away with the “stacking” provision that tacks on years for the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime and, at long last, make retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the sentencing gap between crack and powder-cocaine offenses.

Details of the bill began making the rounds early this week, and the initial reviews among advocates were solid, if not entirely glowing. Most notably, some reformers expressed disappointment that the bulk of sentencing changes would not apply retroactively, leaving thousands of inmates serving excessive terms under the old guidelines. But even the skeptical agreed that the plan was a major step forward.

The Brennan Center for Justice, a prominent voice in the reform movement and one that vigorously opposed the House’s bill, quickly came out in support of this version. “The original First Step Act would have little effect on reducing prison populations and was a concession to Jeff Sessions — one of the only people against sentencing reform,” said Inimai Chettiar, head of the center’s Justice Program. “We support this week’s Senate compromise bill because it includes several key sentencing reform provisions” carried over from the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.

Further fueling optimism about the legislation’s future, last week the Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement in support of the bill, specifically endorsing its sentencing reforms. This is a significant shift from February, when the group sent Mr. Trump a letter opposing previous sentencing reform efforts. The bill has also been endorsed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, the National District Attorneys Association and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Other groups have withdrawn previous objections.

Closer Look at Federal Policy to Allow Medicaid to Pay for State/Private Hospital Stays

A Closer Look at the Federal Policy Change to Allow Medicaid to Pay for State/Private Hospital Stays
Harvey Rosenthal, NYAPRS


·         IMDs (Institutes for Mental Disease) include state psychiatric hospitals, free standing private for profit psychiatric hospitals and some substance use residential treatment facilities

·         Medicaid had not paid for treatment at IMDs for beneficiaries 21 and over since its inception in 1965. Most residential treatment facilities for mental health and substance-use disorders with more than 16 beds did not qualify for Medicaid reimbursement. Instead, states were responsible for the care of people with “serious mental illnesses”, e.g. funding state hospitals.

·         In 2016, CMS (the federal Medicaid agency) approved for the first time that Medicaid could pay for up to 15 day stays at IMDs, solely for enrollees in Medicaid managed-care plans.

·         This new provision authorizes Medicaid to pay for “short term stays” for all Medicaid enrollees, not just those served by private health plans. It’s not clear what the new definition for ‘short term stays’ is, but it appears to be ‘an average of 30 days’.

What’s Wrong with This Policy Change?

·         While states and localities have appropriately redirected funds from downsizing institutional settings into growing critically needed, effective and innovative community services, we appear to be headed in the opposite direction, cutting community services to fund more hospital beds.

·         CMS says it won't approve waiver requests unless they don’t create additional federal Medicaid costs, meaning that savings have to be identified from somewhere else, e.g. community services?

·         The new policy says that “participating states will be expected to take action to improve community-based mental health care” but that commitment is very vague. Further language reveals that CMS will look at applicant states’ implementation plans to “ensure that resources are not disproportionately drawn into increasing access to treatment in inpatient and residential settings at the expense of community-based services.” At what point are reductions in community care considered disproportionate?

Tying More Funding for IMD stays to Community Service Adequacy?
CMS will be looking at state’s “current availability of mental health services throughout the state, particularly crisis stabilization services” which include “increased availability of non-hospital, non-residential crisis stabilization services, including services made available through crisis call centers, mobile crisis units, coordinated community crisis response that involves law enforcement and other first responders, and observation/assessment centers as well as on-going community-based services, e.g., intensive outpatient services, assertive community treatment, xciii and services in integrated care settings such as the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic well as consideration of a self-direction option for beneficiaries”

These are wonderful examples of the very services we must enhance not cut!
If the continuum of inpatient to community care is equally important, then states should not be forced to choose between the two.
This should be the time for the federal government to address our ‘broken system’ by properly funding the entire continuum.

The Bazelon Center Responds in CNN piece
“Although our mental health systems are in crisis, neither the IMD rule nor insufficient hospital beds are the primary problem,” Jennifer Mathis, director of policy and legal advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, wrote in a policy debate this year.

“The primary problem is the failure to implement an effective system of intensive community-based services, which have been shown to prevent or shorten hospitalizations,” Mathis wrote. “Repealing the IMD rule would do little to alleviate the true crises in our public mental health systems and would likely deepen those crises.”

In an email to CNN, Mathis added that CMS’s announcement “ignores all of the findings of the IMD demonstration that has already been done (, which showed that expanding federal reimbursement for short-term IMD stays had none of the beneficial effects that were hypothesized.”

CMS plans to overturn Medicaid ban on mental health facility pay
By Virgil Dickson  | Modern Healthcare November 13, 2018

The CMS may soon make it easier for states to use federal funds to pay for Medicaid enrollees to receive treatment at inpatient mental health facilities.

The agency issued a letter to Medicaid directors Tuesday saying they will be able to cover an average of 30 days of care at institutions of mental disease, or IMDs, through a new waiver.

In a speech shortly before the announcement, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the Trump administration is increasingly concerned that Medicaid beneficiaries aren't receiving critically needed care because of the IMD exclusion.

"Today, we have the worst of both worlds: limited access to inpatient treatment and limited access to other options," Azar said at the National Association of Medicaid Directors conference Tuesday. "It is the responsibility of state and federal governments together, alongside communities and families, to right this wrong."

The CMS now reimburses IMD stays up to 15 days for Medicaid enrollees in managed-care Medicaid under a 2016 rulemaking. The new waiver will pay for more treatment at IMDs and apply to all Medicaid enrollees, not just those overseen by private plans. 

The waivers will only be approved to cover short-term stays. States will have to prove their plans are budget-neutral for the federal government.

The Trump administration is already offering similar 30-day IMD waivers for Medicaid enrollees battling substance abuse. 

To date, the CMS has approved the substance abuse waivers for 17 states, and the agency has seen positive results, Azar said. Virginia has seen a 39% decrease in opioid-related emergency department visits and a 31% decrease in substance-use related ED visits overall after it implemented its demonstration. The state was one of the first to receive an IMD substance abuse waiver.

"There are so many stories of Americans with serious mental illness, and their families, that end in tragic outcomes because treatment options are not available or not paid for," Azar said. "I urge everyone involved in state Medicaid programs here today to consider applying for the kind of waiver I've just outlined."

The CMS estimates that 7.1% of adults ages 21 to 64 meet the criteria for serious mental illness and require some inpatient treatment and that 13.8% experience serious substance abuse disorders. 

The exclusion has meant a difficult care experience for Medicaid beneficiaries suffering from mental illness, according to the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare (which changed its name from the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems this year). Patients endure long stays in emergency departments and are transferred from one general acute-care hospital to another, sometimes far from their homes, because of bed shortages.

Medicaid has not paid for treatment at IMDs for beneficiaries 21 and over since its inception in 1965. Most residential treatment facilities for mental health and substance-use disorders with more than 16 beds did not qualify for Medicaid reimbursement. 

Instead, states were responsible for the care of people with severe mental illness. The federal government did not want to supplant state funding with federal Medicaid dollars.

Breaking: CMS May Allow Hospitals to Pay for Housing Through Medicaid

CMS May Allow Hospitals to Pay for Housing Through Medicaid
By Paul Barr  | Modern Healthcare November 14, 2018

HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday said Medicaid may soon allow hospitals and health systems to directly pay for housing, healthy food or other solutions for the "whole person."

In a speech to the Hatch Foundation for Civility and Solutions in Washington, Azar said Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation officials are looking to move beyond existing efforts to partner with social services groups and try to manage social determinants of health as they see appropriate.

"What if we gave organizations more flexibility so they could pay a beneficiary's rent if they were in unstable housing, or make sure that a diabetic had access to, and could afford, nutritious food?" Azar said in his prepared remarks. "If that sounds like an exciting idea ... I want you to stay tuned to what CMMI is up to."

The CMS has approved experiments in providing this care for Medicaid beneficiaries in California, Illinois, Minnesota and New York. d_�!�+

Single Payer Updates from Congress and Albany

From Crain’s….
Fresh off the Democrats' triumph in the House, "Medicare for All" proponents are seizing the moment.
IN THE HOUSE: JAYAPAL TAKES THE LEAD ON MEDICARE FOR ALL — Medicare for All caucus co-founder Rep. Pramila Jayapal will take over as the primary sponsor of the House's longstanding single payer legislation - and is already well into a broad rewrite of the bill, she told POLITICO's Adam Cancryn Tuesday night.
— What it looks like on the Hill: The Washington Democrat is assuming control of the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act from outgoing Rep. Keith Ellison, who took the bill earlier this year from its original author, former Rep. John Conyers.
Jayapal's goal: To update the bill so it's more closely aligned with the Medicare for All bill penned by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
"We're actually turning it into what a Medicare for All plan would look like," she said. "We're pretty far along, but we have another six weeks or so to go."
Democratic leaders are aware of the effort but haven't weighed in yet, Jayapal said. But she's not planning to push for immediate action; once the bill is finished, the next step is working out what she said are key differences with the Sanders bill. She's hoping it keeps the HR. 676 bill number.

Single-Payer Health Care Could Dramatically Cut Property Taxes, Albany City Treasurer Estimates 
By Liz Young  – Reporter, Albany Business Review  November 13, 2018

Switching to a single-payer health care system in New York state could dramatically cut property taxes in Albany, says city treasurer Darius Shahinfar.

"There's these huge property tax savings that are available through single-payer health care. It's no exaggeration to say that passing single-payer health care would be the biggest property tax cut that we've ever had here," Shahinfar said. "We could cut our property taxes by 30 percent tomorrow in the city of Albany between what we're paying on [school district], city and county health care."

Shahinfar has been in charge of the city's finances since 2014. He started researching property taxes and single-payer health care after he realized a significant portion of city, county and school district taxes go toward health care costs.

For example, of $58.6 million in property taxes that the city of Albany expects to collect this year, Shahinfar estimates about 48 percent will go to health insurance costs.

The city of Albany pays for employees' and retirees' health insurance. School districts cover employee health care costs. Counties in New York state cover some Medicaid costs, as well as employee health insurance.

Shahinfar believes some counties in New York state, including Albany County, could potentially get rid of property taxes altogether if a single-payer system was put in place.

Payroll taxes would rise, but the health care savings over time would be greater, he estimates.

"We are wasting so much money on our health care system in this country that could be put to far more effective use," Shahinfar said. "No one is talking about the costs that you save on copays, on deductibles."

Single-payer has gotten a lot of attention in New York recently. The Assembly has passed single-payer legislation, called the New York Health Act, four straight years. With Democrats in control of the state Senate come January, there is a possibility the legislation will pass there as well.

Shahinfar testified before the Assembly in 2015 to share his research on the potential property tax savings of single-payer.

Some business owners and lobbies believe New York should not go it alone in creating a single-payer system. They say businesses would face an increased tax burden and are concerned about a recent study that showed a single-payer system could double the state's budget.

Some of the legislation's advocates have focused on how they believe single-payer would be a moral victory. While Shahinfar, who is a Democrat, agrees, he says there are potential financial benefits that better make the case for the switch.

"For the vast majority of [working New Yorkers], they're going to end up saving money," he said.

CMS To Allow Medicaid to Pay for Inpatient Psych Care in Private, State Hospitals: CHP

NYAPRS Note: Yesterday’s announcement by US Health and Human Services Secretary that states will now be able to apply to direct Medicaid funds for expanded use of inpatient care, including those provided by private and state psychiatric facilities, raises serious concerns. While the Secretary indicated that “inpatient treatment is just one part of what needs to be a complete continuum of care, and participating states will be expected to take action to improve community-based mental health care,” it is doubtful at this time that there are any explicit standards to measure whether and how states will similarly expand their outpatient systems. Stay tuned for further discussion and action.

CMS To Allow Medicaid to Pay for Inpatient Psych Care
By Jonathan LaMantia  Crain’s Health Pulse  November 14, 2018

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will allow states to use Medicaid funding to pay for short-term inpatient psychiatric care—a departure from a decades-long policy forbidding the practice—Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday.

The announcement follows a similar move by CMS to allow Medicaid to cover inpatient or residential services for people with substance-use disorders.

Any state seeking the waiver, which applies to adults with serious mental illnesses and children with serious emotional disturbances, must commit to improving community-based care, CMS said. State demonstration projects will cover only short-term inpatient services and must not cost CMS more than it would have otherwise spent without such a project.

"Inpatient treatment is just one part of what needs to be a complete continuum of care, and participating states will be expected to take action to improve community-based mental health care," Azar said in a speech to state Medicaid directors in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

Azar said the policy came about to discourage states from "offloading" the responsibility of providing inpatient mental health services onto the Medicaid program when states had traditionally operated their own programs—sometimes providing inadequate care.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health said it was reviewing the federal guidance. "We welcome the opportunity to potentially end longstanding, arcane rules that deny states federal Medicaid funds to treat people with serious mental illness so deserving of compassion and care," she said.

DJ Jaffe, an advocate for services for the seriously mentally ill, said he agreed with the move but wished Azar had gone further.

"The law still prohibits most states from using Medicaid funds for seriously mentally ill adults who need long-term hospitalization," Jaffe said. "It is federally sanctioned discrimination against the seriously ill."

NYAPRS Announces Regional New Hire Orientations Dates

NYAPRS Note: NYAPRS is excited to provide details of another round of our new training initiative for all new staff called, Regional New Hire Orientations across New York State!  Do you have new staff and don’t have the time or the resources to train them in recovery, person-centered and trauma based practices?  For more information and to register your new staff, please contact your NYAPRS regional trainer.  We are looking forward to hearing from you!”

New Hire Orientation Email Blast-Flyer.jpg

Maximizing Connections w Employers Featured at Next Week's NYAPRS' 2018 Recovery and Rehab Academy in Saratoga: Register Today!

NYAPRS Note: NYAPRS Note: The economy is thriving. It’s an employee’s market and people who come to our services want to work! Now’s the time to get out and engage businesses because we know they are looking to hire.  But, do you have the tools to really engage business?  Are you confident in connecting with employers? Connecting with businesses can be difficult but it’s  essential to finding employment for those individuals with which we work.  Join us at this year’s  Academy, “Outreach to Engagement to Activation: The Value of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, and let’s learn how to reach businesses in a new and effective way and get people working. Let’s connect with employers and make sure we are all benefitting from these relationships! Get the latest from experts ACCESS: Supports for Living’s Jennifer Edwards, NYSPI’s Paul Margolies, Tom Jewell and Ray Gregory and NYAPRS’ Len Statham. Join us in Saratoga November 15 and 16 at the beautiful and historic Gideon Putnam Hotel for 2 days of exploration into excellence in service provision.Rooms are still available and registration is open now:  See more at and register today at

How to Get Free or Discounted Uber, Lyft Rides to Vote

Uber and Lyft Are Giving Discounted Rides to Vote on Tuesday. Here’s How To Get One
by Jennifer Calfas   Time  November 5, 2018 

Unsure how you’re going to get to your polling station to vote in the 2018 midterm elections? You’re in luck.

A slew of ride-sharing companies and public transportation systems are offering free or discounted rides to polling booths for Americans around the country this Tuesday. The nationwide efforts to encourage voters to show up for Election Day 2018 come amid a hotly contested midterm election cycle, with a number of crucial Congressional races, gubernatorial challenges, local elections, and more.

The concerted effort from Uber, Lyft, and bike-sharing companies to make polling booths more easily accessible follows a number of studies that say access to transportation posed an issue for Americans who failed to make it to the polls in the past.

A Harvard University survey found about 14% of non-voters said transportation played a “major” role in their decision not to vote; 29% of voters ages 18 to 29 said it was why they didn’t either, according to an analysis from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. And, according to the Pew Research Center, 3% of non-voters cited “transportation problems” as the top reason why.

As a result, it appears a slew of companies, transportation systems, organizations, nonprofits, and activists are working to ensure all registered voters can make their voices heard in the 2018 midterm election. More than 300 companies around the country have also implemented policies that allow employees to take paid time off to get to the polls, for example.

Here are some of the best deals and discounts on transportation to the polls this Tuesday.

$10 off an Uber ride to vote
Uber is offering $10 discounts on rides for users heading to the polls on Election Day. That discount only covers a single ride and can only be used on the cheapest option available. (So, it’s likely you’ll be taking an Uber POOL.)
To take advantage of your discount, first, make sure you have the latest version of the app downloaded.
Then, you’ll be able to find Uber’s Election Day promo code, which will be available on the app on Election Day. From there, you can go to your menu, tap “Payment,” and add the promo code.
On Nov. 6, the app will have a polling place locator. Enter your home address and your polling place will pop up. Then you can request a ride. 

50% off a Lyft ride to vote — and free rides for underserved communities
Lyft riders will be able to access a promo code to get 50% off their rides on Election Day. Similar to the Uber app, Lyft users will be able to find their polling location on the Lyft app, the company says.
Since the ride-sharing company is partnering with BuzzFeed for the initiative, users can find their promo codes on BuzzFeed here by entering their zip code. Then, users can go to the menu on their Lyft apps and enter the promo code there.
Lyft will also be offering free rides to the polls for members of certain underserved communities. The company is working with several nonprofits, including Voto Latino, Student Vets of America, and the National Federation of the Blind — to find these voters and help them get to the polls.
And the company will celebrate Lyft drivers who complete these trips, “surprising select drivers across the country who give rides on November 6 with a special gift.” 

Free bikes to vote in several major cities
Bike-sharing company Motivate, which operates a number of services in cities around the country, will be giving out free rides, too.
Bikers can use the promo code for their city — detailed here — on Nov. 6 to get a free day pass.
The free ride will be offered through these sharing services in the following cities:

  • Citibike in New York and Jersey City

  • Divvy in Chicago

  • Bluebikes in the Boston-metro area

  • Capital Bikeshare in the Washington, D.C.-metro area

  • Nice Ride Minnesota in Minneapolis

  • Ford GoBike in California’s Bay Area

  • BIKETOWN in Portland, Oregon

  • CoGo in Columbus, Ohio

Free scooter rides to vote
Lime, a scooter sharing company, will be offering free 30-minute rides on Nov. 6 to help voters get to the polls. To access the free ride, Lime users can enter the promo code LIME2VOTE18 into their app to get a free 30-minute trip.
“Transportation to the polls is often a challenge for many Americans on Election Day, so we’re doing our part to help,” Brad Bao, the co-founder of Lime, says.
Lime scooters are available at a number of cities around the country as well as college campuses. Check Lime’s map of locations here to see if your city (or school) has available scooters.

Free public transportation to vote
A number of public transportation systems around the country will offer free public transportation to the polls on Nov. 6. Los Angeles residents, for example, will be able to ride free on trains and buses on Election Day — a decision the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority made unanimously despite an estimated $600,000 hit with the elimination of the city’s $1.75 fare, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Similar initiatives will take place in small and large cities around the country, including free round-trips in Houston, free bus trips with the presentation of a voter identification card in Tampa, and free bus rides in Knoxville, Tenn.

Check with your local public transportation authority to see if there are any free options in your city.

Free Rides to the Polls Test the Transit and Turnout Connection
Patrick Sisson Curbed November 5, 2018 

Freedom ain’t free. But for many voters in next week’s midterm elections, rides to the polls will be.

Numerous travel startups and public transit agencies will be offering free or discounted trips to the polls on Election Day, providing turnout-boosting transportation assistance during an already high-profile midterm—and an experiment in how transportation and voting are linked. University of Florida professor and election scholar Michael McDonald believes voter participation this year could be at a rate “that most people have never experienced in their lives for a midterm election.”

“Transportation to the polls is often a challenge for many Americans on Election Day,” says Alex Youn, spokesperson for electric scooter company Lime.

“So we felt we had an opportunity to help people make their voices heard and overcome a barrier that may have kept them from participating in the democratic process.”

The sheer number of transit startups investing in civic engagement on November 6 means many voters will have multiple options to get to their polling place next Tuesday. Lyft is providing half-off rides nationwide through a partnership with nonprofits working to encourage civic engagement, and will offer codes for free rides, via partner groups, to underserved communities.

Lime will give users free rides of up to 30 minutes across the company’s fleet of shared bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters. Zipcar will give users a $20 credit for renting a car on election night, between 6 and 10 p.m. Motivate, the national bike-share service recently purchased by Lyft, will also offer free trips in all the markets where it operates, including Citi Bike in New York and Jersey City, Divvy in Chicago, and Ford GoBike in the Bay Area. Skip scooters will give users a $5 credit

Uber will offer $10 off a single ride via its most inexpensive options, usually the Pool shared ride option, as well as a poll locator button in the app that will help route users to their polling place. “We’ve never done a nationwide, discounted, or free ride to the polls before,” says Uber’s Matthew Wing.

In addition, cities and public transit agencies across the country will also offer free trips. Los Angeles Metro, which carries roughly 1.3 million passengers daily, will over free rides on all bus routes and rail lines, a move expected to cost $600,000 in lost fares. Houston, Dallas, and Tampa transit agencies will also offer free rides, many just requiring a voter ID card before boarding.

All this adds up to an unprecedented experiment in free transit and turnout boosting travel options. According to Rey Junco, a senior researcher at the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, current data suggests the youth vote is especially engaged and excited in this election, perhaps voting in numbers that may rival a presidential election year.

He believes these free transit options can make a difference, especially for this age group.

“The statistician part of me can’t give you a good estimate,” he says, “but the general researcher in me says I wouldn’t be surprised if it had some impact, especially in closer races.”

America’s poor voting infrastructure
America’s voter participation problem—only 61.4 percent of U.S. adults participated in the 2016 presidential election—has many causes: a long history of racism and voter suppression, antiquated voting infrastructure and a lack of sufficient polling places, laws designed to discourage registration and participation. Emily Badger, writing for the New York Times, noted that in our democracy, there is “an increasingly partisan split over whether it should be a goal at all in America to get more people to vote.”

Can better transportation help increase turnout? While Junco says he hasn’t come across specific studies specifically analyzing how free transportation would change voting behavior, it’s sensible to assume that a free trip to the polls can make a difference, since lack of transit has repeatedly been cited as a challenge.

According to a 2016 “Survey of the Performance of American Elections” by Harvard, 14 percent of non-voters said they didn’t vote in 2016 because they couldn’t find a ride to their polling place, and a recent Pew study found that just 50 percent of voters under the age of 30 said that the voting process was easy. A CIRCLE analysis of the 2016 election found that transportation kept roughly 15 million voters from the polls in 2016, with 29 percent of all youth aged 18 to 29 citing transit as a reason why they didn’t vote—15 percent called it a “major factor.”

Other barriers, such as having to take off work and vote on a weekday, or having to wait in long lines due to a limited number of polling places, may present larger barriers. And, for perspective, 65 percent of youth surveyed listed “didn’t like candidates/issues” as their biggest barrier.

But there’s no question poor transit access depressed turnout, especially across socioeconomic and racial lines. CIRCLE’s analysis found that youth of color were more likely to list transportation as a voting deterrent (39 percent versus 27 percent for white voters). Youth without college degrees also said transportation was a bigger factor compared to their college educated peers (35 percent versus 19 percent).

The free rider solution?
Representatives from Uber, Lime, and Lyft, who are all running non-partisan programs aimed at encouraging overall turnout, have not noticed campaigns making these free trips a central part of their get-out-the-vote operations. That said, Uber also introduced a feature allowing organizations and campaigns to generate promo codes to send out to followers.

Spokespeople from transit companies participating in Election Day promotions all say they can only make rough guesses about how many people will participate. That makes Junco especially interested in seeing the post-election data to get a sense of how the programs were utilized and who took advantage.

It goes to follow that any program that makes participation easier or more affordable can make a difference.

“We don’t know what difference a 10 minute-ride makes, but it speaks to a basic thing we see over and over: Voting is an access issue,” Junco says.