HARTFORD, CT — “Outrage” was a word used repeatedly Wednesday by a group of consumers who thought they were going to get an update on the progress of the state’s new medical transportation contractor.
Veyo, the new contractor, started on Jan. 1 and got off to a rocky start with some of the nearly 800,000 Medicaid recipients who rely on the contractor to get them to their doctors appointments and back home again.
Twenty-four days into the contract with Connecticut, the service is still not working properly. According to consumers and advocates there are still long wait times on the phone for patients trying to schedule rides, patients are not getting to their medical appointments or they are not getting picked up afterward.
That’s why the group of consumers were upset when they learned a Veyo representative would not be in attendance to answer their questions at Wednesday’s meeting at the Legislative Office Building.
The Department of Social Services had excused the company from attending after they initially appeared on the agenda.
“There are no words to express the pain the department feels with members, families, providers, and facilities over the countless situations that have been shared with us over the past 24 days,” Rod Winstead, program manager at the Department of Social Services, said. “The department has all of the Veyo staff knee deep in addressing these ongoing non-emergency medical transportation issues.”
Winstead said Veyo has their staff, including staff at their corporate offices, coordinating transportation providers, reconfirming trip details, and reaching out to facilities. He said the DSS will continue to oversee Veyo’s operations.
Reached by phone Wednesday evening, Veyo CEO Josh Komenda said Veyo is still not meeting the wait and call times mandated by their contract with the state, but they are doing “significantly better than the previous week.”
He said they are looking at the data and they don’t see “anything crazy out there” regarding wait times for rides. He said the complaints they are seeing escalated are beginning to “fall substantially.” They also are holding twice a day status conferences with the Department of Social Services.
“Overall, I think it’s fair to characterize it as a vastly improved experience,” Komenda said.
But don’t say that to Rep. Michelle Cook, D-Torrington.
On Wednesday morning the child in her district who is battling cancer didn’t get picked up for chemotherapy for the third time since the beginning of the year.
Bonnie Roswig, the child’s attorney, said the mother was able to borrow money from two relatives to get the child to the treatment. Twenty minutes into the ride they received a call telling them that their transportation, which is a federally mandated Medicaid benefit, would be arriving in the next 45 minutes.
“I have no words,” Cook said Wednesday. “We’re talking about getting a child to chemo.”
Komenda said he was unable to address any individual situations.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, also voiced concerned about what she was hearing.
“The examples we heard about today were heartbreaking and outrageous. Sick people who need critical treatment are not getting to appointments, people with cancer are missing chemotherapy sessions,” Klarides said. “This appears to be a widespread failure and DSS should have brought the vendor in to explain what is going on and how they are going to fix it.”
Komenda said the hurdle has been in getting the data corrected.
“The end of the tunnel is near,” Komenda said.
But at the meeting earlier Wednesday, Sheldon Toubman, an attorney with New Haven Legal Assistance, was asking for data to back up claims that Veyo was improving.
“If they were here I would ask them to give detail,” Toubman said.
The contract requires that 80 percent of the calls be answered in three-minutes with a call abandonment rate of less than five percent. If a person is put on hold they can be put on hold for no more than three minutes.
Janine Sullivan-Wiley, who chaired the meeting Wednesday, said they have been told people have been put on hold for 60 to 90 minutes.
Toubman said they want hard data on Veyo’s daily compliance with the contract requirements since Jan. 1.
The Department of Social Services said they provided Veyo with a corrective action plan and are waiting for Veyo’s response. It’s unclear when those details will be made public.
William Halsey, director of integrated care for the Department of Social Services, said they have oversight over Veyo’s contract and will continue to hold them accountable. He said they have every intention to provide the call and wait time data.
“We want that data as well,” Halsey said.
He said once they have the data they will share it.