Posted by DeAnn Smith, Digital Content Manager - email
By Stacey Cameron, Investigative Reporter - bio | email
By Kelly Just, Special Projects Executive Producer - email
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
Medicaid in Missouri pays $30 million annually to give thousands of families free rides to the doctor's office, medical clinics and even the hospital for non-emergency visits and care.
But KCTV5 has found those rides too often are tardy, leading to complaints and in some cases hospitalization. The company at the center of the issue is facing investigations.
In the back corner of a dialysis clinic in Lee's Summit, Lola Parker sits patiently, hooked up to a machine that does the work her kidneys no longer can.
"Hopefully my blood pressure stays up and I can get a good run," Parker said.
From 9 p.m. until 5 a.m., a dialysis unit whirls out the waste from Parker's blood. It's a life-saving ritual she must go through three nights a week.
Because of a recent back surgery, Parker cannot drive herself to these appointments. Instead, a company paid by state Medicaid takes her from home, to the clinic, and back again. But in November, Parker said those rides started coming two to three hours late. One evening, when the driver never came, Parker missed an appointment, got deathly ill and ended up in the hospital.
"After that Sunday night I decided, OK this is it. That's when I called you," said Parker, gesturing toward KCTV5 reporter Stacey Cameron. "I'm not doing it anymore."
Parker is convinced she is not the only one dealing with this issue.
"I know there are others that are having the same problem," she said.
KCTV5 submitted a Missouri Open-Records request to confirm her fears. The records from Missouri HealthNet show in the past three months that 783 complaints were filed against the state Medicaid transportation program.
The list of grievances includes 212 driver no-shows. There were at least 20 missed dialysis appointments, which led to the hospitalization of two patients in addition to Parker.
The extra medical costs from those stays are passed on to Missouri taxpayers.
At the very same time Parker's problems started, Medicaid hired an out-of-state company to run Missouri's non-emergency transportation program. The state signed a $30 million contract with Atlanta-based Logisticare.
By phone and then at agency headquarters in Jefferson City, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Social Services assured KCTV5 that the director was aware of the investigation, but refused to discuss either the growing number of complaints against Logisticare or the state's oversight of the contract company.
Missouri Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, said the state must deal with the issue.
"You know we're talking pretty significant numbers of patients. It seems to me that rises to the level of requiring some type of response from our department," said Frederick, a member of the Missouri Health-Net Oversight Committee.
"If the contractor, the company that's been asked to do this, is really not doing their job, well then you know it's our job to see that they do that job or replace them," he said.
Logisticare's troubles aren't limited to Missouri. Patients and lawmakers in Michigan, Mississippi and Wisconsin are asking for investigations.
Frederick promised action and answers about the Logisticare complaints and questions.
"I'll probably just go to the top of the food chain," he said. "Maybe we can do another segment in a little while when we actually see what actually transpires from this."
Accountability is what Parker wants.
"Something has to be done," Parker said. "Our lives are at stake, and somebody needs to be responsible."
Cameron, an attorney, reviewed the contract between Logisticare and the Department of Social Services. Adding insult to injury, he discovered that the state still pays Logisticare, with taxpayer dollars, even when it fails to pick up patients like Parker.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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