LEE COUNTY — This week, hundreds of patients who rely on medical transport, found themselves without a ride.
It happened in Lee County, and across the State of Florida. It turns out a decision made on a statewide level ended up preventing people from getting to the doctor.
That includes Frank Hull, who said he missed his appointment on Tuesday at the LeHigh Acres Dialysis Center.
Hull was relying on a service provided by Caloosa Regional Transportation. He waited outside his house in the cold Tuesday morning, but his ride never came.
"The company quit and didn’t tell nobody. Didn’t tell none of the riders, and the insurance people didn’t readjust the riders," said Hull.
So Hull missed his appointment, which is serious because his kidneys don’t work.
"Now I’ve got Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday without no filtration," said Hull.
But Caloosa CEO James Sullivan said they were as surprised as Hull.
"They’re calling us, asking what’s going on? Do you know any information? Do you know who I can contact? And unfortunately, there’s nothing that we can do for them," said Hull.
We reached out to the Florida Agency for Healthcare Information (AHCA) and learned what’s going on. Staywell Insurance ended its contract with MTM Transportation, which pays subcontractors like Caloosa. Staywell handles many Medicaid patients like Hull. A new company called LogistiCare took over, but there was a gap in service, which meant all of a sudden on Monday, transportation providers like Caloosa weren't getting paid.
"Unfortunately for us, it means that either we have to lay off or even let go some of our drivers… I’ve already heard that some of these other providers have already closed shop," said Sullivan.
Thankfully for Hull, he called his insurance, and has a ride coming Thursday, but it’s a delay he doesn’t want to have again.
"I'm not feeling too good right now because of it," said Hull.
Another downside of this is that Hull is no longer being served by Caloosa. He said he loved the driver who picked him up, but he’s now going to have to rely on a different company to get him to his appointments at the Dialysis Center moving forward.
UPDATE (02/05/2021 6:10 p.m.) - Staywell Health Plan sent us a statement in response to the article. It reads as follows:
"At Staywell Health Plan, the health and wellbeing of our members is our top priority. In an effort to continue to help our members get to their medical appointments, on Feb. 1, 2021, Staywell Health Plan changed its transportation vendor for MMA/SMI Medicaid members to LogistiCare. In the two months leading to this transition, we worked closely with our members, providers, and state partners to communicate this change to ensure a seamless transition.
For additional information or questions regarding Staywell’s transportation benefits, members can contact Member Services at 1-866-334-7927 (TTY 711), Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern or visit https://www.wellcare.com/Florida/Members/Medicaid-Plans/Staywell/Benefits/Transportation-MMA-SMI [wellcare.com]."