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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota takes back control of rural Medicaid rides

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ST. PAUL – Complaints have piled up since Jan. 1 that rural Minnesota’s poor, disabled and elderly struggled to arrange rides to their medical appointments, but Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota decided to fix that on Thursday by reverting to a system that worked in 2013.

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Blue Cross announced it will again coordinate Medicaid transportation needs throughout much of rural Minnesota, like it did before it hired MTM, Inc. to handle ride scheduling.

Since the first of the year when patients had to call St. Louis-based MTM to schedule rides, horror stories built up about drivers not showing up, vehicles unable to handle wheelchairs and other issues many called life-threatening.

For instance, Carolyn Kile said after making 15 calls to schedule a ride, the driver arrived too late for her to make her appointment.

“I felt like I hit a brick wall at 500 mph and went splat,” the 72-year-old Sebeka woman said.

Kile said she had already made a half-dozen calls to arrange a ride to her next appointment in Fargo.

“We sincerely apologize to our members for any confusion or for any transportation difficulties,” Blue Cross said in a statement.

Blue Cross handles Medicaid recipient rides in much of rural Minnesota, although other insurers take care of many in the northeast and southeast. MTM long has held the contract to coordinate Medicaid transportation in the Twin Cities area. Thursday’s Blue Cross decision will not change anything there.

Blue Cross and MTM indicated it was a mutual decision to end their relationship. Blue Cross said it will take over transportation scheduling Friday.

Blue Cross long handled the scheduling, but decided late last year that MTM would be more efficient. MTM handles similar services in other states.

When MTM took over, it offered contracts to transportation companies around rural Minnesota, but with 30 percent less pay than when the companies dealt directly with Blue Cross. The companies, members of the R80 Medical Transportation Coalition, also refused to work with MTM, saying they do not like how it does business.

The transportation services’ decision to not deal with MTM forced MTM to find new firms for the transport duties, including some start-ups with little or no experience in the field.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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