Beginning last Wednesday, many people across rural Minnesota who needed a ride to a medical appointment found the medical transportation systems they relied on in the past were no longer available. Some were told no rides were available while others were promised rides that never came.
“I had a call from someone in Morristown who was crying because no one was picking up one of her clients for dialysis,” said Dave Pinske, owner of AmeriCare Mobility Van in Mankato. “Another one from Owatonna was waiting for a ride for dialysis, but no one came.
“This isn’t right. We take for granted how easy it is to go out to our car and go somewhere. These people can’t do that.”
The change came when Blue Cross/Blue Shield late last year announced it was canceling its contracts with all non-emergency medical transport companies in rural Minnesota on the first of this year. Those transport companies — including AmeriCare — were told they would have to contract with a company Blue Cross hired that serves as a broker that schedules medical transport rides.
But Pinske, president of a medical transport association that serves Minnesota’s 80 rural counties, said he and the other companies in the association could not and would not work with Missouri-based Medical Transportation Management because of MTM’s past “unethical behavior” and because the broker is ill-equipped to serve rural Minnesota. The association also said the contracts MTM was offering the medical transport services were at rates they received 20 years ago.
Attempts to reach MTM for comment were unsuccessful.
Pinske said that he and other transport companies have spent the past days fielding calls from hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-care facilities and other past customers looking for rides. “But we have to tell them we’re out of (the Blue Cross) network now and can’t provide the service.”