Special Report: Medicaid mess

Published: Jul. 11, 2018 at 9:02 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 12, 2018 at 9:42 AM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Thousands of Medicaid users are being left in the dark unable to get to doctor's appointments. 14 News received an email from a woman who said a new Medicaid transportation program has caused her to miss her last five appointments.

That woman is Debra Fulkerson who has used Medicaid for years.

Debra said, "I don't know what to do. I can't ask neighbors for rides, because I can't pay for the gas. It's just, it's irritating."

Debra has been on Medicaid since 2006. She doesn't drive because of her health conditions, so she has to depend on non-emergency medical transportation to get to her doctor's appointments.

"I have two bone diseases, and I've had breast cancer, and all in all, in general, my health just does not allow me to do this," said Debra.

Medicaid recently changed the way it does medical transports. Before all you had to do was call a cab company and Medicaid paid for your trip to the appointments.

Now the program is run through a company called Southeastrans, and since it started in June, Debra said it's caused some real headaches.

"I've made four appointments and have not been able to get a ride yet," Debra told us.

She calls the number on the sheet given to her by the state. That number takes her to a call center agent who has to confirm she qualifies. From there, Southeastrans is supposed to find her a ride.

At least five times Debra requested a ride, and five times no one showed up. We reached out to the Indiana Family and Social Service Administration to get some answers.

In a statement, the administration said:

"Throughout the first few weeks of this implementation, we have encountered unforeseen challenges that have caused hardships for members, transportation providers, and health care facilities. Things are improving, but there is still work to do."

Debra said without rides to her doctor's appointments, the no-show fees add up and health conditions worsen.

"They don't call and let you know. When I call and ask, 'Where my ride is at?' she goes, 'Oh, I'm sorry. There's not one coming today.'"

Debra said missing vital appointments stresses her finances and her health.

"It's a domino effect for sure. I mean, the doctors are charging $25 for canceling your appointment, before a 24-hour period because it's a no-show. And I'm already up to $100 and I don't have the money."

That's not the only problem. The Medicaid transport program only allows users 20 trips per year. Debra averages nine appointments a month.

We went looking for other options for Debra. We found your county council on aging is a good option for other transportation programs.

Michael Halling is the VP of Social Services at the Southwest Indiana Regional Council on Aging.

He said, "Here in Evansville, we also have a program called the TRIP ticket program and that is for people who are 60 and older and need assistance with transportation."

Debra hopes her story will help bring awareness to an issue she and others are facing.

"It says they have the right to refuse transportation if they feel its unnecessary, and that's not right."

Days after we questioned the state about Debra's case, she received a call.

She told 14 News she will now have her own personal driver to ensure she never misses a doctors appointment.

The state told as of this month, they will implement an extended transition period that will allow healthcare facilities to arrange their own rides with their preferred providers through September until the kinks are worked out.

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