CHESAPEAKE -- Six million one hundred thousand dollars a month: that's how much the state pays private company, Logisticare, to be its transportation broker for Medicaid patients.
These are people who must rely on medical transportation to make appointments either because they have no other means or require specialized care. But what happens when the ride shows up late or not at all? Rose Whybark of Chesapeake has had to find out the answer to that question more times than she wants. Her 17-year-old son, Gary, relies on Logisticare to get to and from his appointments. He has cerebral palsy and scoliosis that recently required back surgery. He has to be transported on a stretcher. Whybark says Gary often misses appointments because the transportation provider shows up late or not at all.
"His doctor appointments are important because we have to get weighed, plus blood work, because he has seizures. I have problems with everything with Logisticare at least six to eight times a year, and I feel that's a lot when your child goes to the doctor every three months," said Whybark.
Vicki Gilikin of Newport News has the same complaint. The Medicaid patient says her illnesses sometimes require as many as five doctors' appointments a week.
"I'm dependent on them to come and take me to the doctor, and they're not doing their job." Her patience over the tardiness of the transporters is growing very thin.
According to records obtained by the 13News Troubleshooters, in 2011 through March of 2012, Logisticare transportation providers in the Hampton Roads region received 15,415 complaints for being tardy. 1,736 were for "no shows."
Logisticare's headquarters in Atlanta also gets an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau; although, the Norfolk branch gets a "B."
In e-mails, spokesperson Craig Marva of the Department of Medical Assistance Services, the agency that contracts with Logisticare, points out Logisticare has only "recently" begun to take specific steps address those providers which have generated most of the complaints. Potential sanctions were written into the most recent contract agreement in October of 2011.
Marva adds that DMAS holds LogistiCare to a high standard of performance for the four million trips that are provided every year in Virginia.
"We do not know of any other state that requires a higher percentage of complaint-free trips. Although 99% of those trips are complaint-free, due to the overall volume and complexity of trips, there will still be errors and complaints and that is where both LogistiCare and the DMAS transportation staff focus our resources."
The 99 percent compliance rate does nothing to ease the concerns of Whybark, who sometimes has to reschedule appointments that her son arrives to too late.
"When they don't show up to get me, I have to wait. It could be anywhere from two to three months before we can make another appointment for him to be seen and usually within that time period, we end up in CHKD emergency room because his seizures have gotten worse."
Whybark says after she files a complaint, the next appointment will be trouble-free, but the good fortune never seems to last.
After 13News contacted Logisticare, company officials agreed to establish Gary as a VIP transport. Each of his rides will be monitored by Logisticare's quality assurance staff. Whybark will get a call the night before a scheduled trip from Logisticare to confirm the appointment. There will also be a call to the provider the day of the appointment to make sure a driver is in route.
As for Gilikin, Logisticare will make sure she is matched with the provider with whom she's had no problems in the past. Both patients were given an apology.