Vulnerable Hoosiers still missing medical rides year and a half into state’s new system

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CAMBY, Ind. -- Records show that for one woman who relies on a state-funded system to get her to the doctor, finding a ride has continued to prove difficult for the people contracted to schedule her trips.

Patricia Hayse keeps detailed notes about all of her doctor's appointments, especially when her ride doesn't show up.

"They’ll set you up for a ride and you wait and wait and wait. It (doesn't) come," Hayse said.

CBS4 Problem Solvers first spoke to Hayse last December, when she and other Medicaid patients described difficulty getting rides scheduled through Southeastrans, a state contractor that began a four-year, $128 million deal with Indiana in the summer of 2018.

After that report, Hayse said a Southeastrans manager helped get her rides scheduled. This fall, though, that manager no longer worked at the company and Hayse began having trouble again.

"With all the appointments I’ve had this month and no show, it’s not good at all," Hayse said.

State records show that in October and November, Southeastrans only got Hayse to the doctor once out of five requests. In three cases, internal notes show that the company could not find a ride for Hayse. In another case, the provider who was supposed to pick Hayse up didn't get there.

"They told me that the vehicle broke down," Hayse said.

Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration, or FSSA, hired Southeastrans, a Georgia-based company, to centralize scheduling of Medicaid non-emergency transportation. Prior to the deal, Medicaid patients could schedule directly through a provider. FSSA Secretary Jennifer Sullivan told CBS4 Problem Solvers in June that the state and Southeastrans have been working to keep up with a 350% spike in demand for rides since they alerted Medicaid patients to the benefit.

Hayse was already getting rides from CICOA Aging and In-Home Solutions before Southeastrans took over. Records show that the non-profit is still one of the providers picking her up most often, but she has also been transported by at least four other companies in 2019.

CICOA interim CEO Mary Durell said Hayse is not the only client having trouble. According to Durell, CICOA's number of Medicaid rides dropped by 50% after Southeastrans took over, and many clients have opted to pay a $5 per ride fee to CICOA rather than schedule through Southeastrans.

"We would like to see our numbers go up, but first and foremost we want to see the clients be able to get served and get where they need to be," Durell said.

Durell said that problems typically arise when Southeastrans attempts to schedule a ride with 48 hours notice. As a workaround, her team is asking CICOA clients to schedule their rides with Southeastrans as far in advance as possible, and contact CICOA separately to get the ride on their books. According to Durell, CICOA has room for more rides if they are scheduled early enough.

"We absolutely have the capacity to do some more. I have a fleet of about 18 vehicles with two more coming, so our plan is in the next year or so to be up to 24 in our fleet," Durell said.

FSSA spokesperson Jim Gavin told CBS4 Problem Solvers that the state's numbers for CICOA do not show a 50% drop in rides. In an email, he also said that Hayse's problems could be due to her living in Morgan County, where providers are less available.

"Southeastrans continues to add CICOA to members’ preferred provider list but if the provider’s declared capacity is filled for a particular day, Southeastrans must move to the next available provider. Southeastrans has regular conversations with providers and adjusts capacity often due to a variety of reasons. Southeastrans provider relations will be reaching out to CICOA to discuss their capacity and any necessary adjustments," Gavin said.

Gavin said that Hayse and other clients can have a family member or friend take them to appointments and get a gas reimbursement, or they can take public transportation, if available, for free.

Durell said she hoped to work with the state to get more clients back on track. She suggested handing out educational materials or small cards to clients that could help them navigate the Southeastrans system, which can add an extra step they are not used to taking to get a ride.

"Our main priority is trying to get someone to the services and where they need to be, but then I’m looking at a loss on the other end because we’re not able to use the system the way it should be," Durell said.

If you have a problem you'd like CBS4 Problem Solvers to consider, contact us at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.

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