Providence, R.I. (WPRI) — After mounting complaints, the House Oversight Committee questioned representatives from the state’s new medical transport vendor, Medical Transportation Management (MTM), Thursday night.
MTM’s new, three-and-a-half-year contract, worth up to $115 million, began Jan. 1, 2019.
The transportation program ensures low-income individuals have rides to medical appointments. But, according to the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services, many patients have reported they are missing appointments because their rides are late, or do not show up at all.
“I don’t wanna hear about transparency and ‘I’m trying,’ when I’m hearing from providers and drivers first-hand what your company has done,” Rep. Charlene Lima, D-Warwick, said.
EOHHS said it received more than 400 complaints about MTM’s service from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1.
“All I can say is I’m sorry, but we’re fixing things quickly,” Alaina Macia, president and CEO of MTM, said at Thursday’s meeting.
Macia called the Rhode Island program “unique.” She said her company has had several issues since its launch here, including providers not wanting to take members they have not driven before, and vice versa.
“We want to ensure continuity of care. But, January 1, when we went live, not all transportation providers were credentialed,” Macia explained. “So some people got assigned with providers they weren’t accustomed to riding with.”
Macia said her company is now making sure it assigns members with preferred providers.
Macia said another issue was that a large number of the transportation providers her company works within Rhode Island are “owner operators,” meaning they are driving during the day and manning their businesses at night.
“We really underestimated that. We now know that we have to provide additional support and resources to them while we bring them along to the new technology.”
Macia said staffing was the third part of the problem. She said the model they used to staff in Rhode Island led to a lot of retention issues, forcing them to pull in resources from other locations to man the phones.
“And it affected service because they weren’t Rhode Island dedicated and knowledgeable staff,” Macia said.
She explained her company has added four employees to work with transportation providers in Rhode Island. Macia said the company will also add staff to work with medical facilities directly.
EOHHS said it has put MTM on a corrective plan in light of its rocky launch at the start of the new year.
Rep. Patricia Serpa, who serves as chairwoman of the oversight committee, said she wants an update on the company’s progress by the end of February. Serpa said if she is not satisfied with the update, she will be asking the administration to terminate MTM’s contract with Rhode Island.
“I want to assure you, this committee will not drop this ball,” Rep. Serpa, D-West Warwick, said Thursday. “We are known for being committed to the well-being and the care of our elderly population and our children. You’re [MTM] new here, so you should know that.”
Meantime, committee members said they will also be keeping a close eye on how EOHHS handles this situation.
“I look forward to your report in advance of the next meeting, and I hope it’s encouraging,” Rep. Michael Chippendale, R-Foster, said to the state’s Medicaid director Thursday night. “Because if it’s not, it going to get very ugly with this committee.”