CINCINNATI – Hamilton’s Judith Turner remained in a wheelchair for six hours in a medical supply store waiting for a ride home. She had no food and no use of a toilet, so her urine dripped onto the floor.
Milford’s Betty Summers was left on a stretcher in the hospital for five hours, awaiting a ride home from a doctor’s appointment. On another occasion, she had to reschedule urology surgery a month late after missing her first surgery due to a missed stroke.
“They just didn’t show up. And they didn’t call me,” Summers said. “I became nervous, depressed and gloomy. And I said, ‘Oh God, I don’t want to go through this.’ “
Transportation complaints are common at the Pro Seniors Defense Group in Cincinnati, which serves residents of Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, and Warren counties.
“I’ve heard of people sitting in the rain in a dialysis center,” waiting for a ride home, said Bob Vines, executive ombudsman for Pro Seniors. “When MyCare Ohio started eight years ago, the idea was that it would save the state money and improve the care of its citizens. I haven’t seen it happen. “
MyCare Ohio is a managed care program for people who receive both Medicare and Medicaid. It is administered by the Ohio Department of Medicaid, which contracts with providers such as Aetna Better Health of Ohio for services.
Pro Seniors receives two to three transportation complaint requests each week, mostly from low-income seniors who have the Aetna plan through MyCare Ohio, Vines said.
“I would like suppliers to look very closely at the root causes of these problems. What is happening and why? Is it a question of programming? Is it a question of drivers? Is it a question of overbooking? I have no idea, “Vines said.” Taxpayers are paying for it and we should care about the comfort and safety of our senior citizens. “
At least 10 times in the past three years, Turner said she was left without a ride, despite having planned one in advance through Aetna.
Once, after a driver arrived late and his doctor canceled his appointment, Turner had to wait a month for a refill of his pain medication.
Other times Turner has been left for hours, often alone, waiting for a ride home from a scheduled transport that is very late. She said she complained numerous times to Aetna, but she never helped.
“I’m literally scared of going somewhere alone now. I don’t know if I’ll be left or not,” said Turner, who wants Aetna to use reliable transportation providers and “don’t leave us stuck” or “Let’s just wait.”
The WCPO contacted the Ohio Department of Medicaid with these complaints.
“The kind of situations described shouldn’t happen. This is very concerning, “said Lisa Lawless, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Medicaid.” After hearing about these issues, we contacted the managed care plan, Aetna, and strongly encouraged them to take immediate action. They have pledged to better inform members on what to do if a ride is delayed and how to file a complaint. “
A spokesperson for Aetna acknowledged the problem.
“Aetna Better Health of Ohio works diligently to ensure members have access to safe, timely and quality transportation,” said Aetna spokesperson Rose Miller. “We are sorry that some members have had experiences that do not meet these expectations and we continue to monitor the situation.
“In response to the challenges faced by our members, in June we decided to terminate our agreement with our existing supplier as soon as possible contractually (December 31, 2022). We are working closely with our new partner to ensure greater oversight and responsibility”.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Medicaid is rolling out a new program on December 1, Next Generation of Managed Care, which aims to improve transportation with new requirements for on-time pickups and returns and fines for non-compliance. .
“Situations like this shouldn’t happen,” Lawless said. “Everyone in Ohio deserves quality, reliable health care and services they can rely on.”
Pro Seniors supporters say they are confident, but skeptical, that senior transportation will actually improve in January with a new provider and program.
“We will all age. We will all need these services, “Vines said.” We need to make sure that the services we are providing … are working, that they are adequate, that they are treated with humanity. “
For Turner, he has no choice but to rely on MyChoice Ohio transportation. Her husband works during the day, she does not live near a bus stop and cannot afford to buy a wheelchair accessible van.
“I just hope that Etna can improve. There are companies out here that will pick up the game, I know there has to be, “Turner said.” It’s not just me, there are others like me (who have it) worse than me. “
A few weeks ago, Turner ordered a transport so that he could visit a nursing home in Roselawn where he could move. Afterward, she waited over three hours outside in the heat for a ride home.
“I’m calling, I’m crying … because I’m sitting outside alone and I’m scared,” Turner said. “‘Please see if I can get a ride home.’ I said, ‘I know I’ve made a reservation, please, please, see if you can take me home.’ “
Summers is also frustrated, but like Turner, she doesn’t have another option for transportation. Her grown children live far away and she can no longer drive.
“You are talking to a person who had been used to taking care of themselves, driving wherever you had to go. And now, suddenly, there is nothing I can do to help myself, absolutely nothing, “Summers said.” This is degrading to me.
MyCare Ohio members can contact the Ohio Department of Medicaid for complaints at medicaid.ohio.gov/contac [gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com] or 1-800-324-8680.
Aetna Better Health of Ohio members can get immediate assistance by calling “Where’s My Ride” at 1-866-799-4405 (TTY: 711) or members can contact their Aetna Health Officer by calling Member Services at 1-855-364-0974.