CINCINNATI – Judith Turner of Hamilton sat in a wheelchair for six hours at a medical supply store waiting for a ride home. She had neither food nor use of the bathroom, so her urine was dripping on the floor.
Betty Summers of Milford was left on a stretcher in the hospital for five hours, waiting to get home from a doctor’s appointment. On another occasion, she had to reschedule her urology a month after she was late for her first surgery due to a no-show.
“They just didn’t show up. I got nervous, depressed and pessimistic,” Summers said. And I went, “Oh my God, I don’t want to go into this.”
Transportation complaints are common at Cincinnati’s Pro Seniors advocacy group, which serves residents of Butler, Claremont, Clinton, Hamilton and Warren counties.
“I’ve heard of people sitting in the rain in a dialysis center,” said Bob Vines, director of the ombudsman at Pro Seniors, waiting for a ride home. “When I started MyCare Ohio eight years ago, the idea was that it would save the state money and improve the care of its citizens. I didn’t see that 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.
Pro Seniors receive two to three transportation complaint calls each week, and most are low-income seniors who have an Aetna plan through MyCare Ohio, Vines said.
“I would like providers to take a closer look at the root causes of these issues. What is happening and why? Is it a scheduling issue? Is it a driver issue? Is it an overbooking? Taxpayers are paying for it, and we have to take care of the comfort and safety of our citizens,” Vines said. the elderly.”
No fewer than 10 times in the past three years Turner said she was left without a flight, despite scheduling one in advance through Aetna.
Once after a driver arrived late and her doctor canceled her appointment, Turner had to wait a month to refill her prescribed pain medication.
Other times, Turner was left for hours, often alone, waiting to get home from a very late scheduled transportation. She said she complained a few times to Aetna, but that never helped.
“I’m literally afraid to go anywhere on my own right now. I don’t know if I’m going to leave,” said Turner, who wants Aetna to use trusted moving vendors, or “just don’t leave us stranded,” or “just let’s wait.”
The WCPO contacted the Ohio Department of Medicaid regarding these complaints.
The type of situations described should not occur. This is very concerning, said Lisa Lawless, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Medicaid. After hearing about these issues, we reached out to the managed care plan, Aetna, and strongly encouraged them to take immediate action. They have pledged to better inform members of what to do if a flight is delayed and how to file a complaint.”
An Aetna spokesperson acknowledged the problem.
“Aetna Better Health of Ohio works hard to ensure members have access to safe, timely, and high-quality transportation,” said Aetna spokeswoman Rose Miller. “We regret that some members had experiences that did not meet those expectations, and we continue to monitor the situation.
“In response to the challenges our members faced, we decided in June to terminate our agreement with the existing vendor as soon as contractually feasible (December 31, 2022). We are working closely with our new partner to ensure greater oversight and accountability.”
Meanwhile, Ohio’s Department of Medicaid is launching a new program December 1, Next Generation Managed Care, which aims to improve transportation with new requirements for on-time pickups and deliveries, and financial penalties for noncompliance.
“Situations like this shouldn’t happen,” Lawless said. “All Ohioans deserve reliable, high-quality health care and services they can count on.”
Defenders of the Pro Seniors say they are optimistic, but skeptical, that transportation for Seniors will actually improve in January with a new vendor and new program.
“We will all get older. We will all need these services,” Vines said. “We need to make sure that the services we provide… are working, that they are adequate, and that they are treated humanely.”
For Turner, she has no choice but to rely on the MyChoice Ohio transportation service. Her husband works during the day, she doesn’t live near a bus stop and she can’t buy a wheelchair-accessible van.
“I just hope Aetna gets better. There are companies here that will take the slack, and I know there has to be,” Turner said.
A few weeks ago, Turner requested transportation so she could visit a large living facility in Roussillon where she could move in. Then, I waited more than three hours outside in the heat to get home.
“I’m calling, 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 made a reservation, please, please see if you can take me home.”
Summers is also frustrated, but like Turner, she has no other choice to move around. Her adult children live far away, and she can no longer drive.
“You’re talking to someone who’s used to taking care of themselves, driving anywhere I needed to go. Now, all of a sudden, there’s nothing I can do to help myself — absolutely nothing,” Summers said.
MyCare Ohio members can contact the Ohio Department of Medicaid to file 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 (Telegram: 711) or members can contact the Aetna Care Manager by calling Member Services at 1- 855-364-0974 .