CLEVELAND — What if you had no car and you depended on a transportation service to take you to your doctor or other healthcare appointments?
That's what hundreds of thousands of disabled, elderly and economically challenged residents in Ohio face. But some of those people claim a company entrusted with their care, called Provide A Ride, is leaving them stranded.
And Provide A Ride is not some little mom and pop operation. This is a company contracted by Managed Care Organizations like CareSource, the largest Medicaid program in Ohio. Provide A Ride says they're experts in handling people with special needs. But that’s not how frequent customer Nancy Kavick feels.
"There's some people that look down on people that are on disability and low incomes. Like we're the bottom of the totem pole and we don't matter," Nancy told us.
And that's a big problem if those people are your life line to the outside, like Provide A Ride is for Nancy. You see, she has a brain disorder and can't drive. So, the company that manages her Medicaid benefits, CareSource, pays Provide A Ride to take her to her many doctor appointments.
But she says they're not doing a very good job of providing a ride at all. She told us, "There's already been four different instances of them not showing up at all, picking me up at the wrong address, having one person that was supposed to pick me up, then that person doesn't pick me. Then I get contacted by another driver, that driver doesn't pick me up."
In fact, when we waited with her for a pick up to one of her appointments, they were 45 minutes late. And according to the driver who finally arrived, it didn't look much better for the ride home.
She told him that she requested a pick up between 3:15 and 3:30. But he responded, “I can't make any promises about that."
But Nancy wasn't having that. After a little hell raising from the lobby at her Dr's office, where she told the company, "I need confirmation today that I'm going to be picked up at the time I was told I’m going to be picked up, and not two hours later," they got her on time.
Russell Stephens, who used to rely on Provide A Ride, but now won’t use them at all told us, "I had to sit and wait for them for an hour and a half…almost two hours, before I finally got through to someone that said ‘there's no ride for you’."
That meant walking home. A walk of more than three miles from physical therapy. Then another time, he says they picked him up in Mentor, drove all the way to Painesville to drop off someone else, before bringing him "back" to his home in Mentor.
"I'm mumbling to myself about Provide A Ride, and next thing you know I'm talking to two or three people at the doctor's office and they're all saying the same thing. ‘Provide A Ride stinks’.”
Riders filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau reported similar issues. Some say they were left stranded in wheelchairs, others reported missing cancer treatments. One rider claims their driver fell asleep at the wheel.
I asked the CEO and President of Provide A Ride, Alan Groedel, about these complaints. I pointed out that in 2017, the company acknowledged there were problems and said it had taken steps to correct them. But in 2019 it was having the same issues.
“We categorize the complaints, we report them, we try to understand where is it that we're failing the most and what can we do about it. Bottom line, is that we're better than we were. Each year our complaints have gone down,” he said.
Which they have. And Groedel said he invites riders to report problems to its Quality Assurance Department.
But Nancy and Russell say the company's got many more miles to go before providing, what they call, a quality ride.
Russell described them this way, "It's like your best friend that has a drinking problem. ‘I'll be there when I can’. Then you know, three days later he finally shows up. 'You still need to go?'"
We asked Care Source if they were aware of these problems and if so, why were they continuing to work with Provide A Ride? I mean this is coming out of taxpayer dollars.
They emailed the statement below:
“At CareSource, the health and well-being of our members is our top priority. Our goal is to help members overcome any barriers to accessing care, including lack of transportation. We understand how crucial transportation is to successful health outcomes, and are pleased to offer a transportation benefit to assist members in getting to their appointments.”
VP, Customer Care at CareSource
Provide A Ride’s response to our story:
Meantime, if you use Provide a Ride and don't feel you are getting the service you need, here are the contacts to have your issue addressed.
Call Provide A Ride first to see if they are able to fix the problem.
Provide A Ride Quality Assurance department
If you are having an issue with Provide A Ride, and you are insured with CareSource, you should call CareSource first to see if they are able to address the problem.
Mail the form or letter to:
Attn: Member Grievance & Appeals
P.O. Box 1947
Dayton, OH 45401-1947
If CareSource does not address your complaint contact the CareSource Ombudsman Coordinator:
Phone: (678) 214-7580
If the Ombudsman does not resolve your issue, you can call the following numbers:
Medicaid Customer Complaints
Consumer Hotline 1-800-324-8680
Ohio Attorney General’s (AG) Medicaid Fraud Control Unit
If you have concerns with transportation safety issues, call:
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio