Camden Coalition testifies at non-emergency medical transportation hearing

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By Alex Staropoli

Camden Coalition cites persistent problems, urges state to improve NEMT

On May 10 in Trenton, the Camden Coalition testified at the Assembly Human Services Committee hearing on the status of, and issues affecting, the state-contracted non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) system. New Jersey recently signed a new contract with LogistiCare, the state’s sole provider of NEMT under Medicaid for the past nine years, but serious problems persist.

“The new contract with LogistiCare has the potential to generate improvements to the
non-emergency medical transportation system,” said Jon Tew, Senior Program Manager for Policy and Advocacy at the Camden Coalition. “Despite some modest improvements, our patients unfortunately are not seeing any real change. Late arrivals and no-shows have reduced Medicaid recipients’ access to healthcare, and impacted their health and wellbeing.”

The Camden Coalition has advocated to improve NEMT since 2013. In partnership with Faith in New Jersey and the Good Care Collaborative, a statewide coalition of consumer advocates, providers, and policymakers helping to transform New Jersey’s Medicaid system, the Coalition has worked to identify issues with NEMT and advocate change. While some of the recommendations were included in the current LogistiCare contract, patient and provider experiences from around the state continue to call into question the effectiveness of the program.

In his testimony, Jon described the experience of one Camden patient, who after waiting for hours in his doctor’s office for LogistiCare to arrive, decided to walk home on an 88-degree day. Halfway through his walk he had an asthma attack and had to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

“We cannot underestimate both the human and financial costs of a failed NEMT system,” said Jon. “At the Camden Coalition, we budget over $10,000 a year in taxi rides for stranded Medicaid patients because we continue to expect unreliable service from LogistiCare. Attending regularly scheduled doctors’ appointments improves health outcomes and reduces unnecessary and avoidable emergency department costs. LogistiCare’s failure to provide good service is costing the state millions of dollars.”

When LogistiCare drivers fail to arrive on time or abruptly cancel rides, our care team often calls on local cab drivers like Freddy Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a cab driver who, for the last five years, has filled the transportation gap that patients experience when the NEMT system breaks down. Our nurses, social workers, and community health workers all know him and admire his professionalism, diligence, and the caring, respectful way he interacts with patients.

“Freddy’s attentiveness and kindness, responsiveness, and prompt service is a shining example of what LogistiCare’s service could and should be,” said Jon. “The duplication of service that Freddy provides demonstrates LogistiCare’s failure to patients, providers, and taxpayers alike.”

The Camden Coalition is part of a nationwide coalition of NEMT advocates working on Medicaid NEMT service and provider performance around the country, many of which are serviced by LogistiCare.

“While most of the service issues mentioned today are not unique to New Jersey,” said Jon, “the Camden Coalition appreciates New Jersey’s commitment to working with advocates to improve service for the most vulnerable in our state.”

Read the Coalition’s full testimony at https://camdenhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Camden-Coalition-Testimony-NEMT-Assembly-Human-Services-Committee-5.10.18.pdf.

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