Trans­porta­tion com­pany sued

Medi-Cal pa­tients missed appointments and suf­fered in­juries and in­sults, suit says.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Soumya Karlamangla soumya.karlamangla @la­times.com

Medi-Cal pa­tients missed appointments and suf­fered in­juries, law­suit al­leges.

Los Angeles County Medi-Cal pa­tients missed dial­y­sis treat­ments, suf­fered in­juries when their wheel­chairs or scoot­ers weren’t se­cured in vans and en­dured yelling and in­sults by driv­ers paid to take them to med­i­cal appointments, ac­cord­ing to a law­suit filed Wed­nes­day.

Neigh­bor­hood Le­gal Ser­vices of Los Angeles County filed the suit in L.A. County Su­pe­rior Court against Lo­gis­tiCare, the Atlanta com­pany pro­vid­ing the rides.

Toni Var­gas, one of the at­tor­neys who filed the suit, said she has re­ceived com­plaints about Lo­gis­tiCare since 2014, but that the com­pany has not made im­prove­ments. “That sim­ple dis­re­gard is just the [hall­mark] of Lo­gis­tiCare,” she said in an in­ter­view.

Medi-Cal, the state’s healthcare pro­gram for low­in­come res­i­dents, guar­an­tees rides to med­i­cal appointments for pa­tients whose con­di­tions pre­vent them from trav­el­ing by bus or car. Dial­y­sis pa­tients are of­ten tired and nau­se­ated af­ter treat­ment and can’t op­er­ate ve­hi­cles.

The trans­porta­tion is fre­quently ar­ranged through Lo­gis­tiCare, one of the largest providers of non-emer­gency med­i­cal trans­porta­tion in the coun­try. The firm doesn’t em­ploy driv­ers di­rectly; it con­tracts with ven­dors who pro­vide the rides. Lo­gis­tiCare co­or­di­nates 65 mil­lion rides an­nu­ally in 39 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

Jody Gon­za­lez, gen­eral man­ager of Lo­gis­tiCare Cal­i­for­nia, said com­pany of­fi­cials could not com­ment on pend­ing le­gal mat­ters or on in­di­vid­ual com­plaints be­cause of fed­eral pa­tient pri­vacy laws.

“In Los Angeles County we pro­vide 2.7 mil­lion trips each year and 99.8% are com­plaint-free,” Gon­za­lez said in a state­ment. “Be­cause our goal is 100% suc­cess, we in­ves­ti­gate every com­plaint and work quickly and earnestly to cor­rect any is­sues.”

Gon­za­lez also pointed out that be­cause of the huge num­ber of rides man­aged by Lo­gis­tiCare, even a small per­cent­age not go­ing as planned could mean thou­sands of ser­vice is­sues each year.

Medi-Cal has about 13.5 mil­lion par­tic­i­pants, in­clud­ing 4 mil­lion in L.A. County, ac­cord­ing to state fig­ures. It was not clear how many Medi-Cal pa­tients rely on Lo­gis­tiCare to get to treat­ments.

Adam Wein­traub, spokesman for the state’s Depart­ment of Health Care Ser­vices, which runs Med­i­Cal, said depart­ment of­fi­cials would not com­ment on the pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion.

Com­plaints have sur­faced against Lo­gis­tiCare in other states, in­clud­ing Wisconsin, Michi­gan, Con­necti­cut and New Jer­sey.

Rose Rat­cliff, a plain­tiff in the L.A. County suit, said she needs dial­y­sis three times a week be­cause di­a­betes made her kid­neys stop work­ing.

“If you miss your appointments, you die. That ma­chine be­comes a part of you,” Rat­cliff, 59, said in an in­ter­view.

She said she has of­ten missed her four-hour appointments be­cause vans pick her up late from her home in Van Nuys. Once, she said, a driver did not strap down the mo­tor­ized scooter she uses to get around.

“I was try­ing to tell him, ‘Hey, I’m not locked down,’ and he kept curs­ing me,” Rat­cliff said. She said that mov­ing around in the ve­hi­cle dam­aged her scooter and left her with bruises and scrapes.

Other plain­tiffs, in­clud­ing wheel­chair users, made sim­i­lar al­le­ga­tions.

The suit al­leges that some pa­tients have ended up in the emer­gency room be­cause of short­ness of breath or fluid buildup af­ter their rides showed up late, caus­ing them to miss some of their dial­y­sis treat­ment.

Most Medi-Cal pa­tients are part of man­aged-care plans, which con­tract di­rectly with Lo­gis­tiCare to pro­vide trans­porta­tion. The law­suit men­tions three such L.A. County plans: Health Net, An­them Blue Cross and L.A. Care Health Plan.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of An­them and Health Net said they would not com­ment on pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion.

Hec­tor An­drade, spokesman for L.A. Care, said that about 10,000 of the plan’s 1 mil­lion mem­bers use Lo­gis­tiCare each month.

“We are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing high-qual­ity care to all our mem­bers and are con­tin­u­ously look­ing for ways to make im­prove­ments,” An­drade said, adding that the plan would closely watch how the law­suit un­folds.

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