Supreme Medicar rides may end Friday

May 11, 2011 3:25:20 PM PDT
A Chicago company that transports qualified Medicaid recipients to the doctor is running on empty due to skyrocketing fuel costs.

Supreme Medicar notified clients it will cease operations on Friday.

The company said it's being squeezed by the state, which is not helping with rising gas costs. Disabled and sick individuals are most in need of medical care. Those who can't afford transportation to doctors' appointments and therapy rely on Medicar, but some transportation providers are having a hard time keeping up with demand and their costs.

More than 200 residents at Clark Manor need help getting around and most qualify for Medicaid transportation. But finding a ride is getting harder.

"Some of the companies are closing. Many of them closed over the years. The companies that are left can't handle the volume," Mark Schlichting, Clark Manor, said.

Supreme Medicar Services is one of those companies in trouble. Every day it's a juggle act to get clients where they need to go and trying to use less gas. Supreme's general manager, Jonathan Bledson, says the state owes them $50,000 and what they are getting paid by Medicaid doesn't cover gas costs.

"It's just not enough. It's just not enough," Bledson said. Supreme has already cut staff and reduced service in the last two months. They expect they will have to stop service completely and lay off remaining staffers on Friday.

When their clients ask for other transport service companies, the general manager finds some of the other companies are already out of business.

"Who's going to pick up the patients? All the ambulances companies, they can't pick them up. We don't know who is going to pick them up. The facilities are calling me asking me, 'What do I do?' And I really don't know. I've tried to call everyone. I've called everyone I can think of," Bledson said.

Spokeswomen for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services as well as the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services were checking on transportation reimbursements. Late Wednesday afternoon they issued the following statement:

The IL Department of Healthcare and Family Services sets the Medicaid transportation reimbursement rates. Gas prices do not impact transportation reimbursement rates. And the State has a plan for transporting residents if providers go out of business.

"The state utilizes a Non-Emergency Transportation Prior Approval Provider (NETs-PAP) named First Transit. This NETs-PAP provider can offer alternatives if a client is seeking information about approved transportation providers. The client or their representative, contacts an approved transportation provider, the transportation provider contacts 1st transit for approval prior to rendering the service.

In the case of nursing home residents, most nursing facilities either have long standing relationships with several vendors, own their own MediCars or Service Car. For those that do not, they are more than welcome to contact 1st transit who has a complete list of approved providers in the coverage area. Additionally, a facility can contact the department, and staff will be happy to supply a list of approved vendors in the area.

Those in need of emergency transport (such as dialysis transport) will be handled as a priority."

Stacey Solano
Communication Manager
Illinois Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services

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