Medicaid ride 'cancellations' led to dangerous situation for Emmett woman

Posted at 1:38 PM, Jan 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 11:12:59-05

EMMETT — Some Medicaid users rely on transportation services to get to their doctors' appointments, but it can be a high-stakes ride if passengers are trying to get to life-saving treatment.

"The only reason I filled out the Medicaid paperwork was to see if she could qualify for transportation," said Mandi Forrester, whose mother uses the service.

Forrester works two full-time jobs, one as a pharmacist and one as an advocate and caretaker for her mother, Donna.

"She's my nurse; she takes care of all my medicines, all my needs, and [without her] I'd be lost," said Donna.

Donna has type 2 diabetes and found herself in renal failure last November. Mandi relies on Medicaid's transportation service to get Donna to her much needed, four-hour-long dialysis treatments three times a week. The service, however, hasn't always been reliable.

"The first instance where they didn't show up, she received a text message saying that her ride had been canceled and then she received a phone call that her dialysis treatment had been canceled, and so I called from my work and asked was her treatment canceled today, no we were waiting for her," said Forrester,

"The driver had called the dialysis center to confirm the appointment, but he had the wrong center, so they didn't have her on record, and he took it upon himself to cancel the ride."

It wasn't an isolated incident.

"The second time that it was canceled, I just happened to be off that day, and she had received a text message at exactly 10 am that your ride has been canceled by MTM and we are arranging for a Lyft driver," said Forrester.

In Emmett, nearly forty minutes away from Boise, there's not many Uber or Lyft driver readily available; their assigned Lyft driver, promptly canceled too.

"it's very frustrating, I figured if it's happening to her, it's happening to other people who need life-saving treatments," said Forrester.

It turns out that Donna isn't the only user to have missed trips while using the service.

"The number of missed trips is running around .07%," said Matt Wimmer, administrator for the division of Medicaid.

It is not an overwhelming percentage for the nearly 1,714,678* trips they gave in 2019. In total, it's around 1,129 missed trips for the year. Donna was one of the 88 who filed a complaint of a missed trip in November.

In the best case, a missed trip is going to be an inconvenience for someone, and it ranges from that to they might have something a lot more important that really could represent a risk to their health,
said Wimmer.

Luckily for the Forresters, once the department heard about the situation, they reconciled it.

"It went great, the driver came, it was very professional, it was a clean vehicle," said Mandi.

Now Mandi is advocating for others, so transportation doesn't hinder their quality of care.

"If Medicaid is going to offer this service, they need to make sure it's a service they offer to all communities, whether it's Emmett, Payette, Weiser."

To see all 2019 complaints filed with MTM, including categories such like Early Pick Up Provider, Late Pick Up Provider, Late Return Provider, Vehicle-Appearance/Odor, Vehicle -Quality/Safetyclick, here.

The number for MTM is 1-877-503-1261.

*Numbers have been updated to accurately reflect total trips.