Navigating Transportation Barriers to Cancer Care

Receiving different treatments at various appointments is a huge part of fighting cancer. However, keeping up with these commitments can be pretty challenging. Studies show that one of the biggest hurdles can be accessing transportation for lung cancer treatment.

Transportation for lung cancer treatment: NEMT

Getting to doctor's appointments for checkups and treatments is called Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT). NEMT includes:1

  • Visits to doctor's offices
  • Clinic visits
  • Non-emergency hospital visits

A study from 2022 in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked into the effect that barriers to transport have on people getting crucial cancer treatment. Barriers include:2

  • Trouble affording rides
  • Rides that are not reliable
  • Difficulty arranging rides

This study found that the people most affected were younger than 65.

Consequences of inaccessible cancer treatment transportation

Having trouble getting to important appointments can have big consequences. It can interfere with getting necessary treatment as soon as possible.2,3

Missing ongoing treatments can lead to new or worsening problems with your health. It can also lead to higher healthcare costs. For example, it could cause you to need emergency care or a hospital stay.".2-4

Free and affordable transport options

If you are having financial trouble arranging cancer treatment-related transport, many resources are available to you.


One such option is Medicaid, an insurance program funded by state governments.5

The exact rules for providing Medicaid change by state. Still, the law requires each state to provide some form of transportation help. You can see if you are eligible for Medicaid at

Reduced fare programs offer affordable, accessible transportation

Some programs improve access to public transportation by offering free or reduced fares. One example is the reduced fare program available through the Chicago Transit Authority. This program provides free bus passes for:7

  • Senior citizens
  • People on Medicare
  • People with disabilities

Check if similar programs are available where you live by contacting the public transportation agencies in your area. You may also be able to find transport support through national nonprofits and local support groups dedicated to your type of cancer.7

Private insurance provides transport options to treatment

Private insurance companies sometimes help with transport costs related to cancer treatment. They can cover a range of services to help you make it to your appointments. Some may offer reimbursements for gas and mileage, access to public transportation, and even rides themselves. Private insurance companies that offer transport help include:8-10

  • Aetna
  • United
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield

These services will usually have some rules, such as a limit on the number of yearly rides. Call your insurance company to see if you are eligible for transportation services or if they can suggest other options.8-10

Other transportation options: Ride shares

Another option is using rideshare companies like Lyft, Uber, and GoGoGrandparent. These companies have smartphone apps that allow you to request a ride through their app. Rides are given by people who drive their vehicles for the company. Many ride-sharing apps also let you schedule rides ahead of time.


If you are able to drive, consider car-sharing. Companies such as Turo and Zipcar allow people to rent a car for short periods of time, also through a smartphone app. These apps require that you have a valid driver's license that you can show them.11,12

Some things you need to keep in mind when using ride-sharing and car-sharing services are price and availability. Prices vary depending on the distance to the destination and how busy the service is at the time. There are also programs to help you get rides for free through Lyft and Uber.13,14

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