CINCINNATI – Judith Turner of Hamilton spent six hours in a wheelchair at a medical supply store waiting for a ride home. She didn’t have food and didn’t use the bathroom, so her urine dripped onto the floor.
Milford’s Betty Summers was placed on a stretcher at the hospital for five hours, waiting for a ride home to her doctor’s appointment. In another, she had to delay her urological surgery a month after she missed her first surgery due to an absent car.
“They just didn’t show up. And don’t call me,” Summers said. “I became anxious and depressed and gloomy. And I said, “Oh my God, I don’t want to go through this.”
Vehicle complaints are common at the Pro Seniors advocacy group in Cincinnati, which serves residents of Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton and Warren counties.
“I’ve heard of people sitting out in the rain at a dialysis center,” said Bob Vines, inspection manager for Pro Seniors, waiting for a ride home. “When MyCare Ohio started eight years ago, the idea was that it would save the state money and it would improve the care of its citizens. I have not seen that happen. “
MyCare Ohio is a managed care plan for people who receive both Medicare and Medicaid. It is administered by the Ohio Department of Medicaid, which contracts with providers like Ohio’s Aetna Better Health for services.
Pro Seniors receive two to three transportation complaint calls per week, primarily from low-income seniors with Aetna plans through MyCare Ohio, Vines said.
“I want suppliers to look closely at the root cause of these problems. What is happening and why? Is it a matter of schedule? Is it a driver problem? Is it a matter of overbooking? I don’t know,” Vines said. “Taxpayers are paying for this, and we should be concerned with the comfort and safety of our elderly citizens.”
At least 10 times in the past three years, Turner said she hasn’t been given a ride, despite pre-scheduled it via Aetna.
Once after a driver showed up late and her doctor canceled an appointment, Turner had to wait a month to refill her prescription pain medication.
At other times, Turner was often left for hours, often alone, waiting for a ride home from a very late scheduled transport. She said she complained so many times to Aetna, but it never helped.
“I’m really scared to go anywhere alone now. I don’t know if I’ll be left behind,” says Turner, who wants Aetna to use reliable transportation providers and “don’t leave us stranded,” or “let us wait.”
WCPO has contacted the Ohio Department of Medicaid regarding these complaints.
“The type of situation described should not have happened. This is very disturbing, said Lisa Lawless, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Medicaid. They have pledged to better inform members about what to do if a ride is delayed and how to file a complaint. “
An Aetna spokesman acknowledged the issue.
“Aetna Better Health of Ohio works hard to ensure members have access to safe, timely, and 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 experienced by our members, in June we decided to terminate our existing contractual supplier agreement as soon as possible (December 31, 2022). We are working closely with our new partner to ensure more oversight and accountability.”
Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Health is kicking off a new program on December 1, The Next Generation of Managed Care, that aims to improve transportation with new requirements for pickup. and on-time drop-off as well as financial penalties for non-compliance.
“Standbys like this shouldn’t happen,” Lawless said. “All Ohioans deserve reliable, quality health care and services they can count on.”
Aging advocates say they hope, but are skeptical, that seniors transportation will actually get better in January with a new provider and a new program.
“We will all grow old. We will all need these services,” said Vines. “We need to make sure that the services we’re providing… are working, that they’re appropriate, that they’re being treated humanely.”
For Turner, she has no choice but to rely on MyChoice Ohio’s transportation. Her husband works during the day, she doesn’t live near a bus stop and she can’t afford a wheelchair van.
“I just hope Aetna gets better. There are companies here that will solve the problem, I know there must be,” Turner said. “It’s not just for me, there are other people like me (who suffer from it) worse than me.”
A few weeks ago, Turner booked a transport so she could visit an upscale living facility in Roselawn, where she could move into. Then she waited more than three hours outside in the hot sun to 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 catch a ride home.” I said, ‘I know I’ve got a reservation, please, see if you can take me home.’ “
Summers is frustrated, too, but like Turner, she has no choice but to go again. Her older children live far away, and she can no longer drive.
“You are talking to someone who is used to taking care of themselves, driving wherever I need to go. And now, all of a sudden, there’s nothing I can do to help myself — absolutely nothing,” Summers said. “That for me is degrading.”
MyCare Ohio members may contact the Ohio Department of Medicaid with 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 administrator. manage their Aetna care by calling Member Services at 1-855-364-0974 .