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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has apologized to outstate Medicaid patients left waiting for rides to their doctors, and canceled its week-old contract with the company it brought in to coordinate those rides.
The announcement came Thursday, just nine days after the insurance giant contracted with Medical Transportation Management (MTM) to provide rides to thousands of its patients who rely on nonemergency transportation services to make it to doctor visits, chemotherapy and dialysis. The new contract got off to a rough start on New Year’s Day, as some local transportation companies refused to do business with MTM and reports rolled in from around the state of sick and elderly patients looking for a lift.
“We sincerely apologize to our members for any confusion or for any transportation difficulties,” Blue Cross said in a prepared statement, noting that it will reinstate its contracts with the local service providers starting Friday. “We believe this decision is in the best interest of those members who rely on transportation services to get to and from their medical appointments.”
MTM is based in St. Louis but has contracts around the country, including agreements with 11 Twin Cities-area counties to coordinate nonemergency patient transportation. Blue Cross and MTM both described the decision to terminate the contract as mutual.
“It was only a week of experience we had, but we learned a lot at the same time,” said Phil Stalboerger, vice president for public affairs for MTM. The company, he said, would work with Blue Cross to ensure that the transition back to the original transportation providers goes smoothly.
The original contract would have required local transit companies that once had worked directly with Blue Cross to contract through MTM. Some companies balked, because MTM would have reduced their rates and because of the company’s history, which includes a multimillion-dollar Medicaid fraud settlement it paid the state of Missouri a decade ago.
Stalboerger said the company was in the process of lining up new providers when the contract came to an end.
“We were feeling we were turning the corner,” he said. “We knew that people were getting where they needed to go. People were coming out of the woodwork to help us be successful, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to make it work.”
The Minnesota R-80 Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Coalition, which represents companies that serve 80 rural counties, had filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office over the new contract. Coalition president Mike Pinske sent out a statement Thursday saying he and his members were “gratified” by the return to the status quo.
“We have had a long and productive relationship working directly with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and we look forward to resuming that relationship with them,” he said. “We also look forward to getting back to work providing the nearly 700 rides per day that we formerly provided to Blue Cross/Blue Shield members. This situation has shown us that Blue Cross shares our desire to provide the most cost-effective service while never losing focus on the needs of the people we serve.”