Frustration with $128 million state contract for medical rides continues as commission meets for first time


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A commission created by legislators to oversee a $128 million state contract for transportation to medical appointments met for the first time Friday.

The non-emergency medical transportation, or NEMT, commission consists of state legislators, Medicaid providers, and stakeholders. State Sen. Vaneta Becker, who sits on the commission, led an effort at the Statehouse to create the commission to oversee problems with state contractor Southeastrans.

Last year, Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration, or FSSA, entered into a four-year, $128 million contract with Georgia-based Southeastrans, which took over the system of rides to medical appointments for Hoosiers on Medicaid.

“I know I never heard any complaints until after they took over,” Becker said at Friday’s meeting.

CBS4 Problem Solvers has heard from dozens of patients over the past year and a half who said their rides, scheduled through Southeastrans, were cancelled last minute, showed up late, or never showed up at all.

During a tour of the company’s Indianapolis-based call center in June, FSSA Commissioner Dr. Jennifer Sullivan said she hoped to bring people back who had given up on Southeastrans.

“My goal, our goal as an agency, is everybody who needs a ride gets a ride on time, safe, to the things that they need, that’s the goal,” Sullivan said.

Friday’s meeting focused largely on an independent review of the system that is being performed by Burns & Associates. The finalized review is expected to be complete in early December, but the company revealed preliminary results before commission members.

The results included findings that around one in five rides scheduled through Southeastrans are either cancelled or not completed. The numbers include rides cancelled by patients, which account for about 2.5% of rides not completed, and rides cancelled because Southeastrans could not find a ride, which is about 7% according to the review’s authors.

Some commission members noted that providers and nursing homes had dropped out of the network because of issues with the company. Questions were also raised about the numbers presented in the review as it compared to what people are seeing on the ground.

“I’m really kind of surprised by the information that’s submitted and it just doesn’t agree with what our actual experiences are,” said Sherri Hampton with American Senior Communities.

State Rep. Karlee Macer expressed frustration during and after the meeting, saying she did not think there was enough time for meaningful discussion.

“There’s a … big job that we have here and it’s just disappointing that people, their health and possibly their lives are being put on the side while we continue to kick this down the road,” Macer said.

Sullivan told members that their concerns would be addressed by FSSA and Southeastrans. The company is now required by state statute to publish detailed information about its monthly operations online.

The commission will meet indefinitely, at least twice a year moving forward.

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