April 10, 2015                                                 Contact:  Debra Kolste – 608-266-7503

                                                                                        Janis Ringhand – 608-266-2252

 

Sen. Ringhand, Rep. Kolste want action on medical transportation system

 

By Senator Janis Ringhand and Representative Debra Kolste

A woman told Rock County officials, transportation company executives, and legislators that she considers ending dialysis and letting kidney disease claim her life rather than deal with the state’s Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) system.

She made her remarks at the NEMT Town Hall Meeting at the Rock County Job Center on March 27.

Transportation companies hired by state contractor MTM failed to show up to take her to dialysis on several occasions, she said.  Sometimes they abandoned her at the clinic.

“I paid someone coming out of the clinic to take me home,’’ she said.

Others spoke about rides that didn’t show up; waits for return rides of up to six hours; inappropriate vehicles; lack of required signs on vehicles, and unkempt, rude or threatening drivers.

All administered by MTM, a company they described as utterly unresponsive to complaints.

Newspapers have reported the failure of NEMT and legislators demanded a Legislative Audit Bureau investigation.  That investigation is nearing its conclusion after a year.

The NEMT system is designed to get sick and elderly people on Medicaid to medical appointments.  MTM is paid more than $5 million a month to arrange these rides.

The Walker administration seems obsessed with fraud that might be committed by unlucky people receiving public benefits.  But fraud by people who use food stamps, for example, is minuscule.

Contrast that with MTM’s failure to ensure service.  Measure that against the failure of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to address MTM’s performance.

We have repeatedly written to DHS Secretary Kitty Rhoades, going back to the spring of 2013, asking for action. NEMT is a federal program, and we wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services nearly a year ago asking for a federal investigation. We are among the legislators who requested that the Audit Bureau investigation.

Secretary Rhoades and her department have been unresponsive and we have begun to question whether DHS is competent to correct these problems.

Instead of fixing MTM, the Walker administration has called for changes to programs that actually work.  Programs such as IRIS, a popular program that helps disabled and elderly people interact with others, stay in their homes rather than nursing homes, and even hold jobs.

In Governor Walker’s budget proposal, the reward for the success of IRIS is extinction.  The state’s reward for the failure of NEMT is millions of dollars more added to the current MTM contract to address an unanticipated increase in client numbers.

At the Town Hall Meeting, Joyce Lubben, Director of the Rock County Council on Aging, told the MTM officials that complaints voiced at the meeting were not anecdotal, isolated examples.  Problems are common throughout the county and the state.

We renew our call for action.  DHS cannot continue to ignore its responsibility to NEMT clients or to the taxpayers of the state and nation.

We vow to work to keep NEMT on the forefront until it gets fixed.