HARTFORD, CT — The CEO of the state contractor responsible for providing transportation for Medicaid patients since January 2018 said his company will continue to improve its services.
Josh Komenda, CEO of California-based Veyo, told the Medical Assistance Program Council on Friday that they faced challenges when they launched, but that complaints have decreased and they are becoming a national model for delivering non-emergency medical transportation.
“We really believe we’re making significant strides and significant progress,” Komenda said.
However, he also understands that when the service doesn’t work that it’s disappointing for that person. “One failed ride, is one too many,” he said. He assured the council that they are looking at their failures and trying to make improvements in their technology and process.
Since last year, “we are seeing lower complaint rates, and higher satisfaction than ever before,” Komenda said. But “we still are not at zero defect.”
It’s been a year since Komenda attended a meeting of the council and since that time his company has been named as a defendant in a class action lawsuit accusing it of failing to provide transportation services to several clients represented by Connecticut Legal Services. The federal lawsuit also names the Department of Social Services as a defendant.
“We may have to limit response today to your questions due to pending litigation,” said Kate McEvoy, Medicaid and Health Services Director for the DSS.
Veyo brought an attorney to Friday’s meeting, but officials were able to answer all the questions from the council.
Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, said she thinks the company has improved their performance in what is undoubtedly a difficult industry.
“Non-emergency transportation is a complicated issue,” Abercrombie said. “I’ve looked at other states and our system, even under Veyo, is better than other states.”
She said she thinks they still need to improve their services to the homeless community and to the disabled community, which is finding their interactive voice response (IVR) system difficult to use.
She said she received a phone call from a service provider for a homeless man who waited three months for a bus token to get to his doctor. She said she made a phone call and was able to resolve it, but it’s an area for improvement.
McEvoy said that DSS has received, investigated, and responded to each and every complaint about the service that has been raised by members, advocates, or legislators.
“In every circumstance that was confirmed, we intervened to ensure that a remedy was offered. Often, however, we learned that complaints did not accurately reflect actual experience,” McEvoy added.
In February, the last month for which there was data available, Veyo completed 358,996 trips and received 467 complaints. An estimated 225 were substantiated through investigation the company did by going back and listening to call recordings.
Kelly Phenix, a member of the council, pointed out that only about 140,000 of the 350,000 rides being provided on a monthly basis are provided by a cab or livery service — the rest are bus passes.
The three-year, $140-million contract also allows medical providers or nursing homes to become their own transportation provider if they have the vehicles.
Overall, the company says it has provided 4 million trips so far, an average of 350,000 per month. Of those, about 2.3 million have been on public transit, about 1.6 million were livery/wheelchair/ambulance trips, and the rest were mileage reimbursements or independent drivers.
As for complaints, Komenda said they use Salesforce.com to track them from initiation to resolution.
And the “DSS has full visibility of that process,” Komenda said.
He said the DSS also has access to their dispatch portal and can see how rides are being assigned in “real time.”
McEvoy said they have seen the number of transportation providers Veyo contracts with increase significantly in comparison to the previous contractor, and the department has seen documented improvement in timeliness and the rate of completed trips.
McEvoy said they have required plans of corrective action and detailed quarterly meetings.
She added that the department has used “money sanctions” under the contract, but “have done so judiciously because those are passed down to local transportation providers.”
DSS has imposed 49 distinct sanctions under its contract with Veyo, totaling $26,000.
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, said Veyo has improved since they started working in Connecticut, but there’s still a lot of anecdotal situations suggesting there’s room for improvement.
“Frankly, any complaints about missed pickups and the like are too many, and I know they would agree with that,” Steinberg said following the meeting.
He said he can’t say whether the number of transportation providers they are contracting with is adequate for the number of patients who need rides.
Komenda said they have contracts with 80 commercial providers and 250 independent drivers. Since starting the contract they have removed 18 underperforming providers, placed 14 on corrective action plans, and added 17 new providers.
Shawn Dehnert, of Four Fellas Transportation, said it looked like his company wasn’t meeting the performance standards because they were assigning them rides in Bridgeport, when the company is headquartered in Bloomfield and serves the Greater Hartford area.
Abercrombie said Connecticut looks like a small state, but it’s not easy to get from one part of the state to another and these transportation companies are set up to serve a specific geographic region.
“I think there’s going to be challenges with Veyo because it’s a new system and a new way of doing transportation,” Abercrombie said. “I think that people in this state were comfortable under the old system and I think change is hard.”