When Connecticut officials hired a new company to oversee the transportation of children and adult Medicaid patients to medical appointments, lawmakers, health-care providers and advocates hoped the service would run more smoothly than it had in previous years.
But since San Diego-based Veyo took over operations on Jan. 1, many residents have had to wait hours on hold when calling for rides; have missed or been late for critical medical appointments like dialysis, or were stranded at medical facilities when return rides didn’t arrive.
These issues and others led to a flood of calls to Veyo’s call center, as well as patient complaints to their medical providers and the state Department of Social Services, which oversees the program.
Veyo was hired last year to arrange and oversee about four million rides annually to and from medical appointments and services, including for chemotherapy, dialysis and behavioral health treatment. Veyo works with a myriad of private transportation companies, including taxis and ambulances, to provide the rides.
“We believe that the transition has been bumpier than expected,” said Veyo President Josh Komenda. “It was an extremely painful week for everybody … We’ve seen substantial improvements each day, with this week being dramatically improved from last week.”
Komenda and other Veyo representatives spoke at Friday’s Medical Assistance Program Oversight Council meeting in Hartford. State Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, the council’s co-chair, requested at the end of the meeting that Veyo submit a detailed corrective action plan within the next week.
“I’m disappointed overall with this contract as is, disappointed in your delivery,” Abercrombie said. “We’re not talking about taking someone to the grocery store, we’re talking about life and death here … I hope you do this right because I have to tell you, if by February this is not corrected, then we as a legislative body will probably take action also.”
Veyo’s performance was also an issue at this week’s Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council meeting.
William Halsey, director of integrated care for DSS, told the council on Wednesday that the department was “acutely aware of many of these complaints on a case-by-case basis and we’re working as hard as we can with Veyo to correct these.
“We don’t think the current performance is acceptable and we expect dramatic improvement,” Halsey said. “There are definitely financial sanctions as part of the contract. We do give them a window because of the transition time.”
Sanctions are suspended for the first 60 days of the contract, state officials said.
Before Veyo, the state’s non-emergency medical transportation program was run for several years by LogistiCare — the subject of many complaints.
Veyo was awarded a three-year contract, with the state paying the company $52 million in the first year, Komenda said.
Four companies, including Veyo, submitted bids for the job. Veyo was chosen, in part because of lower proposed costs and advanced technological approaches to delivering the service, according to state documents.
Komenda said that the company started uploading data from LogistiCare in December, which included 9,000 schedules for Medicaid recipients who had regular medical appointments each week.
Veyo workers tried to reach out to all of those with regularly scheduled appointments to double-check that the transportation schedules in its system were accurate, but they were only able to reach about 1,500 of the 9,000, Komenda said.
By Dec. 31, he said, all of the schedules that couldn’t be verified were uploaded into the system.
“The reality is that there was a ton of incorrect trip information,” he said. As a result, drivers were sent to many locations where there wasn’t anybody waiting for rides.
According to a statement from LogistiCare, the company provided Veyo “accurate and current member files starting in November and continued to send them daily through January 5.”
Komenda said they were anticipating about 4,500 calls a day, and that in the first week, the call center received an average of about 8,000 calls daily.
Because of those being stranded, Veyo created a dedicated line for health providers to help arrange transportation more quickly. Additional call center staff also was brought on during the high volume days.
Komenda said Friday that hold times had dropped to one to five minutes.
“We understand very clearly that there’s a human being behind every one of those stories, and our team isn’t resting until this is all correct,” he said. “We understand, while this is not for an emergency, these trips often involve life-sustaining care, and we understand that this is not something we can take lightly.”
Komenda said Veyo works in nine states, including Connecticut. He said Veyo will be ending its contract in Idaho early.