AUGUSTA, Ark. – An Arkansas man who depends on dialysis to survive is having an issue again with his Medicaid-funded transportation picking him up on time for his appointments.
It’s 5:37 a.m. in mid-January, the wind makes the air crisp cold, and the Working 4 You team waits in the dark with Timothy Maddox for the van to arrive.
“I do this a lot,” Maddox said.
Maddox is legally blind and has 23 minutes until dialysis starts, in the town over.
“It’s supposed to be here at 5:30 to pick me up,” Maddox said.
He said the van, operated by Verida, has been late all week.
“I sit here and wait and sometimes after so many minutes, I call the company to check and see what’s going on,” Maddox said.
When the van runs late, it sometimes cuts into his dialysis, something Maddox needs to keep living.
He said his transportation could run 15 minutes to an hour behind, or not show up at all.
“If they don’t come get me on time, they’re not coming to get me at all,” Maddox said.
This is not the first time Maddox has called out his transportation for not arriving as scheduled. Working 4 You shared his story in January 2022, he said it got better after KARK’s first story, until recently.
It’s now 5:46 a.m., the van’s driver is 16 minutes behind, according to Maddox’s watch.
“I’ve been feeling sick here lately,” he said.
Working 4 You obtained a copy of the state’s contract with Verida, recently Southeast Trans.
The company, which is headquartered near Atlanta, is cashing-in on a $161,126,714.07 deal, but they may be paying up.
The state’s Department of Human Services has received dozens of complaints about transportation issues, according to the department’s spokesman Gavin Lesnick.
“In November 2022 [DHS’s Division of Medical Services (DMS)] began assessing $500 penalties per occurrence of verified complaints about no pickup at residence, no pickup at appointment, and no provider/driver available,” Lesnick confirmed.
Lesnick reported 31 complaints in November with an additional 16 in December. The complaints totaled $23,500 in fines. DHS is investigating 11 complaints filed in January.
“DMS staff have continued to meet with Southeast Trans/Verida to resolve complaints,” Lesnick said.
DHS is able to terminate a contract when a vendor repeatedly fails to meet contractual obligations, according to Lesnick, but he said the department is focused on resolving complaints and ensuring transportation is being provided in a timely and reliable manner.
Lesnick said Verida has the option to contest the fines sanctioned.
Back in Augusta, the time now is 5:50 a.m. and there may be a sign of hope.
“That’s the van. I know the sound of it,” Maddox said.
Maddox can hear the van coming from a half-mile away.
A few seconds later, the van makes the corner.
His dialysis starts in ten minutes, he will be there in 12.
The van’s driver admits to Working 4 You she was running late but not by 20 minutes. She said her paperwork shows a 5:45 a.m. pick up time, not 5:30 a.m.
Maddox was a few minutes late for his appointment.
Verida has not returned our calls or emails for a comment.
Do you have a story Working 4 You needs to investigate? Call our hotline 501-340-4448.