The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 9, 2014

Blue Cross restores medical transport contracts

By Tim Krohn

---- — After 10 days of frustrated clients waiting for medical transportation rides that came late or not at all, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has capitulated to medical transport companies the insurer had cut ties to.

"They're rescinding the cancellations of all the transport companies' contracts," said Mike Pinske, owner of AmericCare Mobility Van in Mankato.

"It's good news for us and our clients."

Blue Cross issued a statement Thursday saying the contracts with the medical transport firms would be back in place on Friday. "We sincerely apologize to our members for any confusion or for any transportation difficulties. Blue Cross remains dedicated to delivering a quality managed care experience through our Blue Plus HMO and will continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards for all members throughout Minnesota," the statement said.

On Jan. 1, Blue Cross canceled its contracts with all medical transportation companies in outstate Minnesota. Blue Cross told the companies 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.

No longer being in the Blue Cross network, AmeriCare and the other companies could no longer give rides to people who needed to get to dialysis or other medical appointments. MTM scrambled to sign on other transportation firms and sent transportation from hundreds of miles away to try to keep up.

Since then, lawmakers such as state Sen. Kathy Sheran of Mankato, have gotten streams of emails from angry people recounting stories of waiting for hours for rides, having no rides show up and hassles dealing with MTM.