The company that took over responsibility last week for providing nonemergency medical transportation for Medicaid recipients in almost half of Arkansas' counties hasn't been meeting the terms of its contract, a state official said in letters to the company this week.
Sarah Collins Linam, the state Department of Human Services' chief procurement officer, said in a letter dated Monday that Medical Transportation Management has failed to provide rides for patients, "including high priority dialysis beneficiaries, resulting in some beneficiaries missing their scheduled appointments."
The St. Louis-based company also hasn't submitted applications for criminal background checks on its drivers, despite repeated requests from the department; has failed to ensure that its vehicles meet contract-specified requirements; and hasn't been meeting requirements for quickly answering recipients' calls, Linam said.
In a separate letter the same day, Linam listed 14 treatment centers for the developmentally disabled that complained that the company has failed to provide rides for their clients. Providers have also complained that the company doesn't have enough wheelchair-accessible vans, she said.
Linam said the department will impose financial penalties on the company unless the problems are addressed. She told the company to submit a corrective action plan to the department by the close of business Wednesday.
A department spokesman didn't respond Wednesday to a request from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for a copy of the plan.
State Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Melbourne, said she's received calls and text messages about patients in northern Arkansas who have missed scheduled surgeries and doctor appointments. She's been helping to find other sources of transportation for some of them, including those on dialysis or who need injections of pain medication.
"I don't know what else do do," Gray said. "Somebody's going to end up dying over here."
Medical Transportation Management in October was awarded the contract to provide nonemergency medical transportation for Medicaid recipients in four regions of the state covering 32 counties in northern, central and eastern Arkansas, including Pulaski County, after submitting the lowest bid.
In an email to the Democrat-Gazette, company spokesman Michele Lucas said that the award was made later than originally expected and that the company was then barred from communicating with the Human Services Department for about three weeks while a protest from one of the bidders was pending.
"Due to an abbreviated implementation timeline and a delay in receiving beneficiary data, we were unable to fulfill all requested trips," Lucas said. "These circumstances were compounded when a current transportation provider refused to contract with MTM, leaving a gap in the transportation network."
The company is "working diligently to add vehicles to ensure coverage for all beneficiaries," she said, and will reimburse Medicaid recipients for money the recipients spent on other forms of transportation.
The company is also establishing a central business office and call center in Arkansas, Lucas said.
The state had planned to stop allowing children and adults with developmental disabilities to use nonemergency medical transportation to get to day treatment centers on Jan. 1.
Instead, it said the centers could provide transportation themselves and seek reimbursement from Medicaid.
But in response to a lawsuit from the centers, the state shifted course, agreeing to seek an emergency contract with the transportation providers to continue providing the service for an additional year.
Regan Tharp, a co-owner of Kidspiration Too in Melbourne, said the previous contract holder for the region, the Area Agency on Aging for Western Arkansas, used to bring 23 children to the child care center each weekday.
The center provides developmental, speech, occupational and physical therapy for children up to age 5.
Since Jan. 1, Medical Transportation Management hasn't sent anyone to pick up the children, she said.
"We've had zero vans," she said. "We've had a lot of children missing."
In some cases, she said, the company told parents it would send someone to pick up a child, but never did.
She said the center is working on a plan to transport some of the children itself, using a 15-passenger van, and get reimbursed by Medical Transportation Management.
But even then, she said, the center won't be able to transport all the children because of the distance between it and some children's homes.
"Our county stretches -- it's a pretty wide radius," Tharp said. "We would have to make several trips to get all the children here."
Metro on 01/10/2019
Print Headline: Falling short, Medicaid ride provider told; patients’ appointments missed, state complains