CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A ranking legislator called Wednesday for the Department of Health and Human Resources to halt the bidding process for a contract to manage non-emergency medical transportation for Medicaid patients, so that its impact on local Emergency Medical Service providers and volunteer fire departments can be determined.
"I think there are a lot of questions about this," House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, told the Joint Committee on Government and Finance.
He said many local ambulance services rely on revenue from non-emergency transports to remain in business.
"I think it would be useful to this committee to request that, to the extent possible, that contract awarding be held up," he added.
Later Wednesday, Bureau of Medical Services Commissioner Nancy Atkins said she would relay Armstead's concerns to DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling.
Atkins told members of the legislative joint committees on Government Operations and Government Organization that hiring a broker to manage non-emergency transportation for Medicaid patients should resolve issues raised in a legislative audit released Wednesday.
The audit found that Medicaid costs for non-emergency transportation have jumped 74 percent in nine years, from $14.6 million in 2003 to $25.5 million last year.
Most of the increase, the audit found, is for reimbursements to Medicaid patients who make their own arrangements to get to clinics or doctors' offices.
Currently, the DHHR relies on caseworkers to sign off on the transportation reimbursements, and those workers are not required to verify trip mileage or even if there was a legitimate medical visit, the audit found.
Also, the audit found that a requirement that Medicaid recipients use the least-expensive transportation option available is generally not well enforced.
The audit noted that transportation reimbursement costs can vary widely. Costs for a 30-mile round trip for a doctor's appointment can vary from $14.10 -- the cost of mileage reimbursement if the patient has a friend or family member drive them to the appointment -- to as much as $72.80 for round-trip fare with a taxi service.
An audit by Public Works LLC released in April reached similar conclusions, calling on the DHHR to retain a broker to manage non-emergency transportation costs.