After more than six months, the discussion with the company hired by the state to transport Medicaid patients has not changed much — will these patients make it to their appointments?
The answer: sometimes.
More than two dozen healthcare providers and advocates attended a meeting Wednesday to voice what are now familiar complaints against Veyo, a Total Transit Company contracted since January to provide transportation for Medicaid patients to and from appointments across the state of Connecticut.
“Patients are suffering, healthcare providers spend valuable times investing in this and it hasn’t changed,” said Bonnie Roswig, a Senior Staff Attorney for the Children’s Advocacy Center. Roswig spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, which was called by a working group of the state Council on Medical Assistance Program Oversight (MAPOC).
Despite the many examples of problems cited by advocates and MAPOC committee members, Veyo reported that out of the more than 364,000 trips they provided in May, there were only 478 complaints filed via email, phone call or letter. That accounts for just 0.13 percent of rides in May, the company said.
As the meeting progressed, however, it became clear that there is a disagreement about the definition of the word “complaint.”
“If the problem is resolved (in the escalation unit of the call center) it would not be a complaint,” said Dave Coppock, Connecticut manager for Veyo.
In other words, when a call is made that cannot be handled by the regular call center — such as a patient not being picked up within one hour — that is not considered a complaint.
“I think that’s part of the problem,” said Karen Buckley, vice president for advocacy at the Connecticut Hospital Association. “It’s that when providers are spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone trying to resolve things…it’s not being logged as a complaint. So maybe we need to track how many things go to the escalation unit, because my guess is your number is going to compound in a huge way.”
Many of the complaints — both counted and not — have been related to the type of vehicle arriving to transport the patient, namely, whether the vehicle is wheelchair accessible or has a wheelchair already on board.
Until recently, Veyo was not providing either, arguing that the contract it signed with the state Department of Social Services contained language saying that the company was not required to provide “durable medical equipment,” such as wheelchairs or stretchers.
In a July 12 letter to lawmakers, however, DSS and Veyo said the issue has been resolved.
“It is the intent and expectation of both parties (DSS and Veyo) that every Medicaid member in need of a wheelchair mode of transportation receive that service,” the letter states.
Officials said Wednesday that the agreement will not cost the state more money.
With these added services, Veyo is working to expand their list of transportation providers. In the last month alone, the company said it has added 7 new providers, including 46 ambulatory vehicles.
“There was a lag time in wheelchairs and wheelchair accessible vehicles making it out to patients,” said Coppock. “We had to come to an agreement with DSS where we both had a clear understanding of what was expected. It took us a couple of months to get there, but even in the mean time we were trying to provide (the appropriate services).”
Veyo might not be there yet, however.
“On July 13 at the MAPOC meeting, DSS reported that Veyo had seen the light when it came to wheelchair transport,” Roswig said during her public comment. “But on July 16, I received a call saying that a client had tried to confirm a wheelchair ride for July 17 but was told it couldn’t quite be confirmed yet. Eight of her last ten appointments have been canceled because wheelchair vehicles were not available.”