When you have a child with a disability or special health care needs, finding low-cost and accessible transportation is challenging if you do not own a car – or your car cannot transport your child comfortably. If your child has Medicaid, there is a transportation program that will give you some of those rides at no cost to you.
On this page, we talk about the Medicaid transportation benefit and some other transportation choices you might have in your community – and how to use them. Our Grants and Other Funding Sources page also lists some transportation programs for times when you have specific challenges. Your child has choices and rights with any form of transportation, from city buses to taxis to paratransit.
Below are some forms of transportation that might meet your family’s needs, depending on if you live in a city, town, suburb, or rural area of Texas.
If your child has Medicaid or is part of the Children with Special Health Care Needs Services Program, your family might be able to get free, non-emergency transportation to Medicaid health care visits if you don’t have any other way to get there. This might include non-emergency ambulance rides. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) runs these services and sets up the rides.
The program might also reimburse someone to drive their own car to a Medicaid-related appointment or pharmacy trip. The driver can be you, your child if they have a license, or someone else you know. To do this, the driver must be approved as an Individual Transportation Provider by filling out paperwork and proving they have a current driver’s license, license plates, vehicle inspection, and auto insurance. If your child is age 20 or younger, you or your child may be approved to be the driver in your own car. Learn more by calling 1-877-633-8747 (1-877-MED-TRIP) or going to the HHSC web page on medical transportation services. It’s important to know that you or your driver must get approved for each trip before you go. Also, the program does not reimburse for grocery store trips or places not related to covered Medicaid services.
If you need a ride to your child’s doctor or dentist’s office, hospital, drug store, or anywhere else your child gets Medicaid services, there is a toll-free number to call for a ride. To be approved for each trip under Medicaid rules, you must not have another way to get your child to the appointment. There is someone ready to help you schedule a ride, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call the phone numbers below.
You can book your rides a few days ahead of time or a month in advance if you know the dates. Here are some tips for getting a ride:
The Medicaid Medical Transportation Program will help you and your child get to the doctor or hospital in another city if you need special care out of town. If you are going more than 100 miles away, you can receive financial help for mileage, flights, or bus tickets as well as lodging and meals. You must ask for this special medical transportation at least 5 business days before your trip using the same phone numbers as the other medical transportation services we explained above.
There are situations where your child can use these medical transportation services with an adult who is not a parent, and some situations where an older teenager can travel alone. Children age 14 and younger can never travel alone.
Again, if you have any questions about these services, call 1-877-633-8747 (1-877-MED-TRIP). If you do not have Medicaid or need to get to other, non-medical places, see our tips below.
If you want to introduce your child to a little more independence, you might have to pay for it, but there are accessible choices. Most city buses, for example, come fully equipped with a wheelchair lift and special seating for people with disabilities or special health care needs. In some cities, your family can use a regular city bus, taxi, or a light rail. Fares for these types of transportation are sometimes reduced for children and adults with disabilities or special health care needs. It’s a good idea to call the public transportation agency in your area or visit their website to check and see what they have. Find it using this Texas Department of Transportation’s public transportation locator. They might ask for proof of your child’s disability or special health care needs to approve a reduced fare card.
Many school districts and the Texas Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) also have hands-on training for older children to learn how to use the bus system or learn about public transportation in their community. Some community programs might help your child learn to drive and get their driver’s license if they are able. These are all ways your child can feel more independent. Our Grants and Other Funding Sources page also lists some private programs you can apply for to help you make special out-of-town trips for medical care.
Paratransit is simply a type of transportation designed for people with disabilities or special health care needs. It is more commonly used by adults than by children. These vehicles are sometimes run by private companies or the city, and each has its own rules on who can ride. These vans can pick you and your child up at home and take you where you need to go. You or your child will need to call and set up a pickup time, and sometimes you will have to wait awhile for your rides to come. If your young adult needs to bring an attendant, they will be charged for 2 passengers. (In some cities, a 1-way ticket is just $1.) To find out if there is paratransit in your area, look online (Try searching “transportation” or “paratransit.”) or connect with other parents to see if they have tips for you.
If you want to take a city bus or a taxi, call ahead of time if you need wheelchair access to be sure they can meet your family’s needs. It is very rare for a bus not to be wheelchair-accessible, since the Americans with Disabilities Act requires all new buses to be able to carry wheelchairs. You can also ask questions about service dogs which, by law, must be allowed on buses and in taxis. The city will also know if bus numbers are given in Braille.
To learn more about the mandatory accommodations that public transportation services must offer by law, see the Americans with Disabilities Act National Network Disability Law Handbook. In addition to the different transportation ideas and choices we explain on this page, you might be able to connect with other parents to share rides or get other ideas.