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'It shouldn’t be this hard': Arizona woman who uses wheelchair says she's had 7 rides to doctor appointments canceled

The non-emergency medical transport is supposed to help Cassandra Brandt get to her appointments, but she said they're getting canceled with late notice.

GLOBE, Ariz. — Seven times over the past month and a half, a woman who uses a wheelchair said she's had her ride to her doctor’s appointment canceled.

The non-emergency medical transport through Medicaid is what’s supposed to be what helps Cassandra Brandt get to her doctor, but since moving to Globe, Ariz., at the beginning of February, she said that hasn’t happened.

"Literally every ride I’ve asked for,” Brandt said.

Brant, who describes herself as quadriplegic, has been trying to use Veyo, also known as MTM, to book her rides to her doctor’s office.

Confirmation text messages show that six of the last seven bookings have been to a doctor’s office not even two miles down the road.

“They have been approving these appointments, but then the day before the appointment arrives, they call me and say they don’t have a provider available,” Brandt said.

Veyo is listed as a provider for Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s Medicaid agency. However, AHCCCS was not able to answer 12News’ questions by air on Tuesday.

Brandt moved back to Globe at the beginning of February, saying it’s a community she loves and wants to live in. But the difficulty with the transport has made her miss doctor’s appointments.

“I used them when I was in the Valley and it was never a problem; they always had somebody available,” Brandt said. “But since I’ve been back, it’s been really difficult.”

Brandt said with her van broken and no easy way to use the local transit, she was left to travel the road herself, which doesn’t have sidewalks the whole way, or wait on the state Medicaid transport.

“That’s what it’s supposed to be there for,” Brandt said.

A spokesperson for MTM told 12News in an email they can’t comment on specific arrangements because of privacy regulations.

“MTM is committed to providing safe and timely transportation to the thousands of Arizona residents we serve daily,” the spokesperson said.

MTM did not respond to 12News when asked how many rides have been canceled by the company over the past year in Arizona.

Back in 2019 in Connecticut, a class action lawsuit claimed the state and its contractor, Veyo – which is now MTM – “has failed to reliably provide NEMT for Medicaid recipients, despite scheduling their transportation as instructed by DSS, resulting in missed appointments, loss of medical care, and loss of access to treatment.”

Chris Rodriguez, president and CEO of Ability360, said transportation issues are systemic for people with disabilities. He’s noticed the issue the entire 20 years he’s worked in the disability field.

“This isn't limited to just Maricopa County or Globe or Arizona,” Rodriguez said. “Transportation is an issue that we're trying to tackle across the entire country.”

Rodriguez said strides had been made in metro areas, but transportation is even more difficult for those living in rural areas.

One challenge Rodriguez sees is workforce shortages.

“I think some of those solutions might be higher reimbursement rates for that particular support. So people will, you know, find it more compelling to take those types of jobs, as opposed to other jobs that are out there that might be able to compensate them at greater extent,” Rodriguez said.

The owner of the assisted living facility Brandt lives in told 12News on the phone that she's seen the issues Brandt has been going through and has noticed it with other transportation providers for other people living in the facility for years.

However, Brandt is concerned living in a more rural area like Globe is the reason she can’t get transport to her doctor a couple of miles down the road.

“Anyone else can just go to the doctor, and it’s not that difficult, you know, but I just feel like it shouldn’t be this hard,” Brandt said.

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL: 'No debería ser tan difícil': Una mujer de Arizona en silla de ruedas dice que le cancelaron siete citas médicas

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