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Wisconsin medical ride provider bought by company that earlier yielded complaints

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Jessica Nell

Jessica Nell, who has cerebral palsy, is shown in her Downtown Madison apartment in 2019. She said she had problems getting rides to appointments covered by Medicaid. "They're very untimely, and sometimes they don't show up at all," Nell said.

After a St. Louis company that provided rides for Wisconsin patients on Medicaid generated complaints, the state tried twice to shift to a different vendor.

The first time, the company, MTM, won an appeal and extended its contract. The second time, MTM failed to block the move, and the state in November began a new contract with San Diego-based Veyo.

Now, MTM is purchasing Veyo, bringing uncertainty to Wisconsin’s non-emergency medical transportation system, or NEMT. The program serves about 22,000 people, many of them with disabilities, and costs $124 million a year.

The Department of Health Services says Veyo will need to continue service improvements specified in its three-year, $370 million contract, regardless of ownership. MTM announced the acquisition June 8, pending regulatory approvals.

“DHS is working with MTM and Veyo to understand specifics of the transition, as we did not initiate it,” spokesperson Elizabeth Goodsitt said. “There is no change in the contractual obligations Veyo currently has to provide NEMT services to members.”

“NEMT services will not be interrupted leading up to or during this transition,” Goodsitt said. The phone number to schedule rides will remain the same: 866-907-1493.

How much the move will affect consumers is unclear. People on Medicaid who don’t have family or friends to take them to medical services covered by Medicaid must go through the state’s vendor for transportation.

A state audit in 2015, prompted by complaints against MTM and its predecessor, LogistiCare, found more than 4,000 no-shows and more than 55,000 late rides in less than a year. Last year, MTM provided about 266,000 trips a month and had an average of 365 substantiated complaints a month, according to DHS.

Between 2015 and 2021, DHS assessed $200,000 in damages against MTM, similar to fines.

People have also had problems with Veyo, said Kit Kerschensteiner, director of legal and advocacy services for Disability Rights Wisconsin.

“I don’t know that we’ve heard anything all that different from Veyo,” Kerschensteiner said. “From what we can tell, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.”

Many complaints involve canceled rides, difficulty scheduling rides and frustration with the appeal process over denied rides, Kershensteiner said.

DHS hasn’t made performance data about Veyo available, with Goodsitt saying it will be posted online soon. In a presentation in May to Wisconsin’s Transportation Advisory Council, Veyo said it provided 690,000 rides from January to March and had 2,142 substantiated complaints during that period.

MTM spokesperson Michele Lucas said, “Our goal is zero disruption in service, and we are committed to delivering a seamless integration for DHS, Medicaid members and all stakeholders.”

Veyo spokesperson Jessica Williams declined to comment Friday.

In 2011, the state replaced county-based medical transportation programs for people on Medicaid with a statewide system, saying the move would centralize ride management and save money. The operator runs a call center and subcontracts with paratransit services, cab companies, bus systems, independent drivers and others to provide rides.

LogistiCare, which ran the program beginning in 2011, ended its three-year contract early, saying the company was providing more rides than expected, especially in the Milwaukee area where volume was double what was projected.

MTM started a five-year contract in 2013. In 2018, the state said it planned to award a five-year contract to LogistiCare. MTM, which ranked third among four bids, appealed, saying two members of a six-person state evaluation committee didn’t attend the company’s oral presentation.

In 2019, the state Department of Administration agreed that the committee members’ absence was a state code violation. It ordered the health department to rescind its intent to contract with LogistiCare, and the MTM contract was extended.

In February 2020, DHS issued an intent to contract with Veyo, Goodsitt said. An MTM protest was unsuccessful, she said, leading to the switch to Veyo last November.

Goodsitt said the new Veyo contract requires changes, including a dedicated unit to handle rides related to critical appointments such as dialysis and cancer treatments; updated online scheduling, including a mobile-friendly portal, and complaint submission; better call center service; and timely trip assignments to transportation providers.

“DHS does not plan to amend the contract or remove these required improvements,” Goodsitt said. “Our top priority at that time, as it is now, was to make sure that members were able to access safe and reliable transportation to medical appointments.”

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