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Taxpayer-Funded Rides To Doctor Appointments Failing Tampa Bay Seniors

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Your tax dollars pay to get Medicare and Medicaid recipients to critical doctor appointments but, for some, those rides never arrive.

Missing those doctor visits can have dire consequences. We’re not just talking about checkups. One Tampa Bay area woman says the issue is now delaying her surgery and impacting her vision.

“My left eye – I just had cataract surgery on that. Now it’s very important I get the right eye, [but] they don’t show up,” said Kari Kowalski.

Kowalski says she’s spent hours sitting on a bench outside of her Clearwater condo, waiting for her taxpayer-funded Medicare ride. In a span of four months, Kowalski says she’s missed four medical appointments.

When she does get picked up from her home, at times, Kowalski says she’s left behind at the clinic for hours.

“Can you imagine waiting for transportation to pick you up after you’ve had your teeth all pulled out and no one shows up?” said Kowalski. “I live from day to day with high blood pressure and worried about if I’m going to get a ride to the doctor or not.”

We contacted Humana about Kowalski’s case. Citing privacy, a spokeswoman said details could not be released but: “we take situations like this very seriously and we always work diligently to resolve issues.”

Humana urges patients to call the ride assistance line if they have issues. Kowalski says she’s tried that.

“‘We were there, where were you?’ No… no, I’m being lied to and I don’t like to be lied to,” she said. “These transportation people do not care.”

The Agency for Healthcare Administration tells 8 On Your Side the state would have no role in a case like Kowalski’s. Unlike Medicaid, Medicare health plans are a federal program under the Department of Health and Human Services.

8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi is trying to understand if this is a widespread issue. Please email MSaeidi@WFLA.com if you’re having transportation issues you’d like to share.

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