Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Jesse Scardina firstname.lastname@example.org
Patients of MaineCare in central Maine are feeling the effects of federal changes to non-emergency medical transportation, and they are not happy.
“We’ve had hundreds of complaints,” said Jim Wood, transportation director for Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, which provides thousands of MaineCare patients with transportation for medical appointments. KVCAP has offices in Skowhegan, Waterville and Augusta.
“I think this was launched before it was ready to go and things aren’t improving significantly,” he said.
KVCAP is a non-profit organization that helps low-income residents with things like foreclosure prevention, utility bill assistance and transportation.
For decades, KVCAP brokered and provided transportation for MaineCare patients, but because of federal changes from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the task of arranging rides and providing the transportation had to separate to avoid a conflict of interest.
The changes have resulted in chaos, including scheduled transportation providers not showing up, patients either late for or missing appointments and children being dropped off at the wrong home.
The company coordinating transportation is Coordinated Transportation Solutions, in Connecticut.
KVCAP is one of several transportation providers in Maine that CTS has contracted with. CTS is allowed to arrange for wheelchair van companies, taxis, friends and family members of MaineCare patients and volunteer drivers.
MaineCare patients who need transportation make an appointment with CTS, which sends the request electronically to a transportation provider such as KVCAP, according to Wood. CTS decides which transportation company will be used based on the most appropriate form of transportation at the lowest cost.
For Wood, the additional step is frustrating.
“This implementation has been very challenging,” he said. “Right now a lot of people are falling through the cracks.”
Judy Davis, of Canaan, tried to reach CTS representatives for weeks with little luck. She drives her son, who receives MaineCare, to appointments and needed to reach them for reimbursement forms.
“I’ve spent literally hours on hold,” Davis said. “I have four different phone numbers for CTS and they all say the call volume is too high and they disconnect you.”
She reached the company once, on July 23, she said, but it wasn’t able to provide her with mileage logs and forms confirming the patient arrived for an appointment.
“When I spoke to someone at CTS, they couldn’t answer any of my questions,” she said. “I don’t understand why they had to switch, it’s been absolutely horrendous.”
She said she’s tried numerous times since then to call CTS, but been able to get a call through.
David White, president of CTS, said the company is adding to its staff of 40 at a Lewiston call center and acknowledged problems with the non-emergency transportation.
“We have experienced problems with member pickups that have caused some members to mss appointments or be delayed in getting to or picked up from their appointments. We have experienced much higher call volumes and wait times,” he said.
CTS has taken approximately 60,000 reservations for non-emergency transportation trips in Maine in the month of August, according to the release.
Wood couldn’t say exactly how CTS chooses which transportation service will be used, but did say one aspect had to do with what was the lowest cost.
Most MaineCare patients are elderly, physically or cognitively disabled or are low-income, and the demand for transportation hasn’t changed, Wood said, but a change in the compensation regulations has drastically cut into the pool of volunteer drivers.
Previously, KVCAP provided mileage reimbursement for drivers for all miles associated with the trip. Now, reimbursement is only for the miles when the patient is in the car. If a volunteer driver has to drive to a rural area for a patient, those miles aren’t covered.
According to Wood, the mileage reimbursement went from 41 cents per mile covering all miles to 55 cents per mile, but only when the patient is in the vehicle.
The drivers also aren’t reimbursed if they show up, but the patient cancels or isn’t there.
“We’ve lost 10 drivers in two days,” Wood said. “We had 130 volunteer drivers last year and we have 60 now.”
Jesse Scardina — 861-9239