Medical transport companies say HMO is putting them out of business

- More than a dozen small medical transportation companies say changes made by Blue Plus, which is the health management organization for Blue Cross and Blue Shield, are putting them out of business.  They claim the HMO also owes them money.

“Some of us haven’t been paid since May,” said Mao Duhulow of MDD Transportation. “It’s a nightmare.  I had 10 drivers and 10 vehicles.  And today I’m the only one.”

On August 10 the transportation services, most servicing Somali immigrants, received a letter from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota saying that effective September 1, the HMO division, Blue Plus, will move to a limited number of carriers that have the ability to support a high volume of rides.  The move effects mainly those on Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. 

Several of the carriers met with the HMO this week and left disappointed.  “They act like we’re a bunch of ignorants,” said Ahmediini Elmi who owns Clockwise Transit. The father of five children says he is owed $17,000 in services from the HMO.  “I had 11 drivers and today I have only one,” he said.

In a statement,  Blue Cross/Blue Shield said the move was about managing costs.

“Blue Plus reviewed all of our transportation companies and chose providers that were already providing the majority of our rides; were using the preferred level of technology to track and report on services rendered; provided services on the days and at times needed by our members; and offered the language options necessary to serve our members,” the Blue Cross/Blue Shield statement read.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield says many of the companies they’ve selected are owned and operated by members of the Somali, Hmong and Russian communities. 

But the owner of MDD Transportation is skeptical that those needing rides will get culturally and language appropriate services. “We are not just transportation, we are moral support for our community,” Elmi said.

In a statement, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS)  says it is up to the HMO’s to manage its services.  “ It’s the department’s expectation that the managed care organizations regularly review their networks to ensure these services meet the needs of the clients and programs under Medicaid,” the DHS statement said.


STATEMENT FROM BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF MINNESOTA

“As part of a larger strategy to increase efficiencies and provide a quality experience for our MinnesotaCare and Medicaid members, Blue Plus recently moved to a new model where a limited number of companies will  provide the majority of our non-emergency medical transportation services.  As part of the selection process, Blue Plus reviewed all of our transportation companies and chose providers that were already providing the majority of our rides; were using the preferred level of technology to track and report on services rendered; provided services on the days and at times needed by our members; and offered the language options necessary to serve our members. Many of the companies selected are owned and operated by members of the communities they serve, including the Somali, Hmong, and Russian communities.

Ultimately, Blue Plus needs to ensure that we are managing costs in a responsible manner while providing the most reliable level of service for our members.”

STATEMENT FROM THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES (DHS)

“Each managed care organization is responsible for maintaining a network for services provided under Medicaid including transportation.  It’s the department’s expectation that the managed care organizations regularly review their networks to ensure these services meet the needs of the clients and programs under Medicaid. If we become aware of significant network changes we will review those for adequacy.”

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