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Norwich-based American Ambulance stops offering wheelchair vehicles through Medicaid contractor

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A Norwich-based ambulance and transportation company has put out of commission seven wheelchair-accessible vehicles that it had been using to take Medicaid recipients to doctors' appointments, out of frustration with the state-contracted company charged with dispatching the rides.

American Ambulance Service Inc. is one of more than 60 transportation companies to sign a contract with Veyo, the startup company that won a contract with the state last year to take over non-emergency medical transportation for the state's Medicaid recipients.

But inconsistent numbers of rides and lower mileage reimbursement rates have meant driving the state's Medicaid recipients who use wheelchairs to their doctor appointments no longer makes sense for the company, American Ambulance Vice President Gregory Allard said. 

Some days, Allard said, the company would get no requests for rides scheduled through Veyo's call center. Other days, he said, the company would be overwhelmed with requests.

"They could give us so many calls one day that there was no way we could possibly handle the volume," he said.

So, as of July, the company's seven wheelchair-accessible vans are staying in the lot, and dispatchers at Veyo's call centers are turning to other companies to complete those ride requests.

According to data released by Veyo last week, American Ambulance was completing about 500 rides for Medicaid members in wheelchair-accessible vans per month through the end of May.

State Rep. Catherine Abercrombie, the co-chair of a legislative working group formed this spring to investigate Veyo's performance amid complaints from Medicaid members, health care workers and various medical associations, said Hunter's Ambulance, a Meriden-based company that Veyo says completed more than 1,000 rides in May, also has stopped offering rides in its wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

As of May, Veyo already had also ended its contracts for livery rides to medical appointments with Harry's Taxi, Harry's Livery and Red & White Taxi in New London, and Rose City Taxi in Norwich. Those now are taken by other local cab companies such as Norwich Taxi, by subcontractors like Sky Transportation that hire their own drivers, or by Veyo's fleet of independent drivers.

Allard said the state's decision to move to a contracted broker system for scheduling Medicaid members' rides over a decade ago has proven difficult for transportation companies like his, as well as for patients and medical facilities.

"It's added a challenge to the facilities and it's added a challenge to the patients," Allard said.

Veyo's contract with the state gives the company about $7 million a year in 2018, 2019 and 2020, in addition to an estimated $140 million over the three years to cover transportation costs at a rate of $4.81 per Medicaid member per month.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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