HARTFORD, CT — Six Medicaid recipients filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against the state Department of Social Services for failing to provide them with timely transportation to their doctor appointments.
For over a year, with little improvement, the DSS, according to the complaint, has been failing to provide disabled residents with necessary transportation to their medical treatment appointments.
The Medicaid program, which is a federal- and state-based program, provides transportation for all Medicaid covered services, including emergency services and pre-scheduled medical appointments.
Last January, DSS inked a three-year, $140-million contract with Veyo to provide transportation for the state’s more than 800,000 Medicaid patients.
Veyo is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The complaint says that DSS has been unable to give their clients answers about why their rides were canceled.
A spokesman for DSS said the agency has received the lawsuit and is reviewing it.
Problems with the transportation of Medicaid patients has been a topic of discussion for the Medicaid Managed Care Council, but there have been no solutions to all the problems.
“This is unacceptable,” Kristen Noelle Hatcher, managing attorney of the public benefits unit at Connecticut Legal Services said. “The state needs to answer to the thousands of people whose health is suffering because they are not getting to the doctor, while the company who is supposed to be helping them is getting paid and not being held accountable.”
Connecticut Legal Services filed the class action on behalf of all of the individuals who have been left stranded and in the dark, unable to get to their medical treatment.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Terrilynne Trudeau, is a 56-year-old resident of Terryville who requires treatment for lymphedema, and numerous other serious conditions.
“Ms. Trudeau had eight appointments scheduled to receive this treatment and her transportation cancelled for seven of them,” the complaint states.
Then there’s Ida Davidson, 90, of Norwalk. She is disabled due to atrial fibrillation, and the effects of a stroke. Because of her disabilities, she is bedridden, cannot walk, and is unable to use a wheelchair.
Davidson requires an ambulance with a stretcher to transport her to medical appointments where her primary care physician and cardiologist monitor her condition.
Davidson confirmed her transportation Nov. 16, 2018, and on Nov. 17, 2018, the transportation did not arrive.
“Veyo representatives told Mrs. Moorer (Davidson’s daughter) that they were denying her ride because no transportation providers were able to accommodate her,” the complaint states.
The complaint states that in some cases the wrong mode of transportation arrives for the clients. Sometimes when a client needs a wheelchair van, a taxicab arrives.
“Even in cases in which an individual’s transportation error has been corrected for an appointment or two, the individual has a high likelihood of experiencing that problem again,” the complaint states.
The failure to provide the service is compounded by the agency’s lack of guidance for how to complain if their transportation doesn’t arrive.
Matthew Ibrahim, another plaintiff named in the case, has several disabling health conditions. He uses a wheelchair and needs a wheelchair van to transport him to appointments.
He routinely sees a cardiologist, pulmonologist and primary care doctor to monitor him and keep him healthy and out of the hospital or nursing home. Without regular visits, he may develop infections in his severely swollen legs, or fluid may build up around his heart and lungs, causing either to fail. Several times he has expected a ride to take him to one of these doctors, but he was told minutes before the scheduled appointment that the ride would not be coming.
“Connecticut residents have seen their rights under the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act ignored by DSS for too long,” James S. Haslam, a veteran Social Security Disability and Public Benefits attorney at CLS, said. “It is time to take this to the courts to get those protections back.”