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Dialysis patients denied medical transportation

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by Jolene Toves

Guam - Earlier this week we told you about a dire situation for dialysis patients who are now being denied medical transports to treatment because of new federal requirements. Island leaders are speaking up for local dialysis patients, trying to bring resolution to the cancellation of emergency medical transportation service benefits by Noridian, the contracted handler for Region IX Medicaid.

Governor Eddie Calvo brought up the concern to US Health and Human Services Region IX director Herb Schultz during his recent stop in California. "All the problems started with this new contractor Noridian that is handling Medicare we've also seen some legal opinions by some of those firms that represent some of the companies that has been affected and most importantly the consumer," he said.

Transportation services for dialysis patients on Medicaid are being denied despite meeting the criteria set forth by the program and receiving certification for transport. "We brought this to their attention we are looking towards a resolution when herb was advised of the position he came back to us he wanted to look at his policy people and see what the issues were there. Why there has been a change in interpretation?" he questioned.

The change in the interpretation according to Guam Medical Transport president Cliff Shoemake now reads that patients must be non-ambulatory and on a ventilator to qualify for services. This leaves a vast majority of dialysis patients who still need assistance now searching for a means of transportation to and from treatment. But why the change in interpretation?  Committee chair on health Senator Dennis Rodriguez intends to find out, saying, "I don't know and I wouldn't I don't want to think that way but we will find out and well get to the bottom of why that company is in fact moving in this direction and based on our preliminary reports that we are receiving even from the local company here this is something that shouldn't be done."

While the answer is unclear Governor Calvo says a concern was brought to light by Shultz, saying, "You know they did bring up that there has been a fairly large increase in the services being rendered and the billing for ambulance services but I had to remind them in years past ambulance services were free of charge by our fire department."

With GFD now charging for services this of course means an increase in ambulance billing to Medicaid. "We clarified some concerns they had in terms of why the increase billing and then of course now it is a matter of doing some due diligence and having their legal people look at some of the opinions that were made here on Guam," he said.

One thing is certain the Administration and the Legislature both agree that these services should be provided to patients. 
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