LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Months after the state of Arkansas fired a company for failing to provide required rides to Medicaid patients, the company hired in its place is being fined more than $300,000 for the same violation.
Janet Mann, director of the state Department of Human Services' Division of Medical Services, told lawmakers earlier this week that Atlanta-based Southeastrans was fined $500 for each of the 645 trips it had failed to provide in recent months, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
In February, Southeastrans took over a contract to offer nonemergency medical transportation to Medicaid recipients in 32 counties after Arkansas ousted St. Louis-based Medical Transportation Management, which had also neglected to provide hundreds of trips.
Arkansas assessed a larger quantity of damages —$3.7 million — against Medical Transportation Management over issues that also comprised failing to submit mandatory records on its drivers and furnishing its vehicles with cameras.
During the meeting of the state's House and Senate public health committees, Sen. Ronald Caldwell said that a constituent said they missed three appointments for chemotherapy because of Southeastrans' negligence.
"That's why you're here today," Caldwell told the company's representatives at the meeting. "It really is a life-and-death situation."
Rob Zachrich, chief operating officer of Southeastrans, said its subcontractors have struggled to employ drivers amid the "competitive labor market" in northwestern Arkansas.
To fill the gap, Zachrich said that Southeastrans has increased providers' wages, made $118,300 in interest-free loans to some of them to assist with costs, and has been adding its own vehicles and drivers.
Southeastrans expects to have a fleet of 67 vehicles in Arkansas by the end of September, he said.
"Our goal is to find people who want to be entrepreneurs, who want to start with one vehicle or maybe two vehicles, and hand those vehicles off over time," Zachrich said.