Attorneys have filed a class action lawsuit against the state Department of Social Services for failing to provide Medicaid recipients transportation to critical medical appointments, a move that follows dogged complaints about missed pickups and poor customer service for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable patients.
Connecticut Legal Services filed the lawsuit, naming DSS and Commissioner Roderick Bremby, on Wednesday on behalf of six Medicaid recipients with a variety of serious illnesses who rely on those transportation services for routine and vital care.
Kristen Noelle Hatcher, the head of Connecticut Legal Services’ benefits unit, said the legal-aid organization is asking the court to take immediate action to ensure DSS finds people transportation to accommodate their needs pending the lawsuit’s outcome.
“The violations of law and the illegal reductions of service suffered by [the plaintiffs] … are typical of similar violations suffered by thousands of other Medicaid recipients in Connecticut who rely on NEMT,” the lawsuit said.
DSS is reviewing the lawsuit with the Connecticut attorney general’s office, said department spokesman David Dearborn.
The lawsuit does not name Veyo, the San Diego-based company with which the department entered into a multi-million dollar contract to provide the state’s non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) last January.
The complaints and criticism against Veyo have mounted over several months, as patients waited on hold for hours when calling for rides, missed or were late for medical appointments, and were stranded at medical facilities when return rides didn’t arrive. Those concerns have also been cited during various Medical Assistance Program Oversight Council (MAPOC) meetings.
Veyo was hired last year to arrange and oversee about five million rides annually. The company works with a myriad of private transportation companies, including taxis, ambulances, private contractors and individual drivers to provide transport.
DSS has served Veyo with several fines for making Medicaid patients wait more than an hour to be picked up or not showing up at all.
Hatcher said many patients in need of wheelchair vans will receive confirmation of their upcoming ride before Veyo contacts them stating they are unable to find a provider to accommodate their needs. Some of those cancellations have resulted in patients missing weeks of dialysis, behavioral health appointments, and treatment for physical disabilities.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Terrilynne Trudeau, 56, requires regular treatment for lymphedema and several other serious conditions, and relies on NEMT to transport her in her wheelchair to her medical providers.
“Ms. Trudeau had eight appointments scheduled to receive this treatment and her transportation cancelled for seven of them,” the lawsuit said. According to the lawsuit, Trudeau did not receive written notice about any of the cancellations.
“She will end up in the hospital and really in a state where her life is on the line and that is a good illustration of what we’re seeing with these patients,” Hatcher said.