I-TEAM: Patients left stranded by non-emergency medical transportation provider

Medicaid contractor found ‘unsatisfactory’ in 2014 audit continued to received millions of taxpayer dollars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4JAX I-TEAM has uncovered thousands of complaints filed in recent years against a taxpayer-funded transportation company for Medicaid recipients.

Loved ones say their elderly family members have been left stranded while waiting to be taken to or from doctors’ appointments. The I-TEAM found there has been little oversight of the program.

Some of the stories are frightening. One woman told the I-TEAM her elderly father missed multiple appointments because the company failed to pick him up, at one point leaving him stranded in his wheelchair in the Jacksonville heat for five hours. The company, Modivcare, tells the I-TEAM it’s now looking into that.

Records show Florida health officials received 2,309 complaints against the non-emergency medical transportation company Modivcare from 2017 to 2021. Some of those complaints are from when the company was known as Logisticare.

Rene Reynolds, who until recently depended on Modivcare transportation for her 84-year-old father, said she never filed a complaint with the state, even though they had plenty of problems with the service, including rides that were late or never came at all.

“Every time I called Modivcare, it was ‘another 20 minutes, another 20 minutes.’ I mean, this went on for three and a half hours. I was about to pull my hair out,” Reynolds said.

She said missed or late pickups left her scrambling, wasted doctors’ time, and sometimes left her dad and his caretaker stranded outside of providers’ offices.

“They had run out of water, 98-degree heat, five hours before somebody finally shows up,” Reynolds said of one instance.

She says she’s called the company to complain, but she hasn’t seen any results.

“I don’t get a case number,” she said. “I don’t ever get a callback to find out whatever happened to it or things they’re going to do to change. Nothing. It’s just a black hole.”

Modivcare works as a hub that connects patients to transportation providers on the ground.

The thousands of complaints made to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, show instances where Modivcare was at fault for leaving patients stranded, like when one missed two appointments and another arrived three hours late to an appointment. The records show those clients were assigned new transportation providers and added to a “monitoring list” to make sure they got the rides they needed.

But sometimes the transportation providers were at fault for no-shows, canceling trips but failing to notify Modivcare they were no longer coming.

The records show those ride services were sent for internal review.

Reynolds said, several times, when the scheduled driver didn’t show up, they would pay cash to another driver they’d previously used through Modivcare out of desperation.

“Like the one time that he was stuck outside the dentist’s office for three and a half hours, we manage[d] to contact the driver who had dropped him off and we paid him like 60 bucks or 80 bucks to only go like 10 miles. It was a pretty good fee that we gave him, but we had no recourse,” Reynolds said.

She said what made the situation especially frustrating is that she lives in Houston, Texas, while her father is in Jacksonville.

“You feel so helpless,” she said. “You know, especially when he’s someplace, and he can’t get home.”

State records show AHCA has a contract with Modivcare worth more than $15 million. It started in 2019 and currently runs through 2023.

Records also show a 2014 audit by the Florida Department of Transportation of the company, which was known as Logisticare at the time, found the documents reviewed didn’t provide sufficient evidence that everything the company was required to do was done satisfactorily. The company hasn’t been audited since then, state records show.

A spokesperson from FDOT said, “FDOT does not provide services regarding Medicare, Medicaid or Medwaiver, nor does FDOT have contracts with any of these Non-Emergency Transportation Providers. Your request is related to a previous grant award from FDOT. The grant period began on 1/14/2010 and concluded 2/28/2015.” They went on to say, “FDOT does currently partner with respective County Community Transportation Coordinators to serve individuals who are transportation disadvantaged.”

The I-TEAM asked AHCA whether there’s been any corrective action since 2014, but they have not yet responded.

“There has to be some oversight,” Reynolds said.

The I-TEAM’s requests for comment to AHCA on the complaints received or the specifics of Reynolds’ case remain open.

In a statement to the I-TEAM, a Modivcare spokesperson said, “Modivcare’s priority is safe and reliable transportation. We understand that health plan members rely on our team to provide non-emergency medical transportation to access necessary care, and we are committed to meeting that need.” They went on to say Modivcare takes all member experience matters very seriously. They went on to say Modivcare takes all member experience matters very seriously and they’re looking into the issues Reynolds says she experienced trying to get her dad to his appointments.

There are other non-emergency medical transportation providers with contracts for other Medicaid plans in Florida, although Modivcare serves most of the larger plans.

The I-TEAM has requested data to find out if complaints have been made against the other providers and will continue to follow this issue.

About the Author:

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter