Months after new company took over, Hoosiers still not getting picked up for medical appointments

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s been five months since 200,000 Traditional Medicaid members in Indiana were given a new transportation company to take them to non-emergency appointments. Georgia-based Southeastrans is the new transportation provider since the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) implemented a new transportation system on June 1.

Patients contacted us shortly after to say they were not getting picked up or the rides were extremely late. Some say the problem still has not been fixed months later.

James Cowles, 54, is not as independent as he used to be, especially after losing his left leg because of complications with diabetes. He’s struggling with a slew of other health problems too.

“I had open heart surgery,” said Cowles. “Neuropathy going through my body is crippling me and my hands. I ain’t got no feeling in my hands.”

He needs to go to doctor’s appointments for check-ups and get medication to manage the pain. Cowles has been on Medicaid since 2007. Since Southeastrans stepped in five months ago, he has missed three crucial appointments. One of them was scheduled to get a prosthetic leg.

“You couldn’t even get a ride,” he said. “They will tell you ‘oh we will set you up, they will be there at a certain time’ and you would be waiting for them. They never show up.”

For the Traditional (fee-for-service) member transportation availability, experience and utilization have varied widely across the state. FSSA began a brokered transportation arrangement with Southeastrans providing services for these members this spring.

FSSA said in the first month of implementation of its new broker model, Indiana Medicaid provided 15 percent more rides to Traditional Medicaid members than June of the previous year. In August, they saw the demand increase even further with a 50 percent increase in rides given over August 2017.

FSSA Secretary, Dr. Jennifer Walthall, sent the following statement:

“Our number one priority is and will continue to be building a safe, efficient and reliable network of transportation providers to meet the increased needs and demands of our Traditional Medicaid members. SET and its medical transportation providers have been working rapidly to address this concern. While there are still areas of the state with resource gaps, we have seen steady progress as new providers are signing on at the rate of approximately 5 per week. We now have 246 active providers with more going through the credentialing process. As I’ve stated earlier this year, a transformation that is this substantial will have some hiccups, but implementing this process helps our members to ensure safe transports while reducing risk for all parties and streamlining the reimbursement process.”

Cowles does not have family around to take him to appointments so he hopes the problem gets solved soon. He scheduled a ride through Southeastrans for an appointment Friday. He said a supervisor told him someone should be there to pick him up. He hoped they follow through this time.

“It just takes a toll on us,” said Cowles.

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