Faced with a barrage of complaints about long hold times on its reservation hotline, the state’s medical transportation provider is working on a new online reservation system that would allow people to schedule rides in 30 seconds, according to a federal official.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) sent a letter last month to the federal agency responsible for administering Medicaid and other programs to express her concerns about long rides and wait times for diabetics, and about the state’s insufficient oversight of LogistiCare. The company provides nonemergency medical transportation for Medicaid and BadgerCare
Plus recipients who have no other way to get to their Medicaid-covered appointments.
“I am extremely concerned about the performance of LogistiCare because of its potential effect on the health and well being of my constituents. Specifically, I request the performance of LogistiCare and the State of Wisconsin be reviewed to determine if the standards of (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) are being met,” Moore said in a complaint letter Sept. 26.
Some diabetic patients waited so long that they were sick by the time they reached their destination, she explained. As the Journal Sentinel reported Oct. 6, a Weyauwega senior died last year after missing several appointments to dialysis treatments.
Moore also questioned whether the state Department of Health Services can provide proper independent oversight of LogistiCare when complaints about services go straight to LogistiCare.
“While this is oversight, it is not, in our estimation, independent,” Moore wrote. “We question whether this allows the state to receive enough information to objectively review the performance of LogistiCare.”
The company had dispatched transportation for 665,000 Medicaid recipients in most of Wisconsin, except the greater Milwaukee area, since July 11, 2011.
In a response to Moore’s letter, a federal official said since LogistiCare took over services for an additional 270,000 members in six greater Milwaukee-area counties Sept. 1, staff from the state Department of Health Services have visited the company’s call center nearly daily.
Mara Siler-Price, a manager with the federal Division of Medicaid and Children’s Health Operation, said in her response that adding the Milwaukee area increased LogistiCare’s workload by 41% because patients in Milwaukee County use transportation services more than patients in other counties. Neither LogistiCare nor the state had fully taken that into account, and it added to hold times on the “Where’s my ride” hotline, she said.
She added that a federal representative also visited LogistiCare’s call center Oct. 4 to “provide oversight and technical assistance.”
“Our review found that while there were long wait times and delays in getting members to their destination, those figures have dropped significantly in the last couple of weeks,” Siler-Price wrote. “While LogistiCare has maintained a 98.3% average of statewide trips made without a complaint, the first couple of weeks of their taking over the Milwaukee area workload resulted in an average of 55 complaints a day, or a total of 770 complaints from September 1-14.”
From Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, the average number of daily complaints dropped to 41 per day for the entire state, she said.
“The primary reasons the complaints were so high seem to have stemmed from several factors, including member unfamiliarity with the new transportation broker program, and a requirement that for scheduled . . . trips, a two-day advance notice was now needed for non-urgent transportation,” she wrote.
To address issues, LogistiCare has hired more staff and hopes to hire even more. The company is also rolling out a new online reservation system, she said.
Fifty-one legislators have requested that the state’s audit bureau conduct an audit of LogistiCare. So far, the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Audit that would decide whether an audit is done – Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake) – have only decided to send a letter to the state, said Eric Koch, a spokesman for Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber’s office Wednesday.
“The co-chairs of the Joint Audit Committee have neither promised nor closed the door on conducting an audit of the LogistiCare contract and . . . program,” he said in an email.
The move to consolidate transportation services statewide was initiated by Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration and has continued under Gov. Scott Walker.
Hearing Thursday in Milwaukee
The state Senate’s committee on health, revenue, tax fairness and insurance has scheduled an informational hearing on LogistiCare for 3 p.m. Thursday at the Washington Park Senior Center, 4420 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee.
Officials from LogistiCare and Wisconsin Department of Health Services Medicaid director Brett Davis will be present along with transportation and medical care providers. The public is invited to make comments afterward.
The hearing will be available for streaming online in the days afterward on the Wisconsin Eye website at www.wiseye.org.