TWIN FALLS — A new company has taken over Idaho’s multi-million dollar contract to provide medical-related transportation transportation for Medicaid patients.

Veyo took over rides statewide Friday under its three-year contract with the state. The company contracts with other transportation riders in most of the state to provide these non-emergency medical transport rides. It will also use independent drivers in some areas.

Veyo is expected to give 2,400 rides throughout the state its first day, said Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan. In May, there were 8,599 Medicaid users who got 99,851 trips statewide.

“Many users access the transportation services regularly, such as someone on dialysis or receiving developmental therapy,” he said.

The contract amount is based on the number of Medicaid patients, and will be about $23 million a year if that number of enrollees, which is about 290,000 now, stays stable. American Medical Response had the contract starting in 2010, but Veyo scored higher when the contract was put out to bid this year, Shanahan said.

Twin Falls County represents the biggest chunk of Medicaid rides in the Magic Valley — Veyo expects to provide 28,400 rides there over the next six months, said company spokeswoman Whitney Wells. Cassia and Minidoka counties are next, with 5,000 and 4,000 rides expected in that period, respectively, followed by 2,900 in Jerome County and 2,500 in Gooding County.

Statewide, Wells said Veyo has more than 60 providers and more than 900 vehicles and expects to give 3,500 to 4,000 trips daily. She said the transition would “create more efficiency, transparency, reliability and flexibility for providers and participants statewide.”

Veyo is headquartered in San Diego and does business in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and California. The company debuted its use of independent drivers in Arizona in late 2015, although independent drivers won’t be used in Region 5, which covers the Magic Valley, for now. Here, Veyo is contracting with A to B Services, A-1 Taxi and Trans IV for rides. There is some change in the providers; A-1 is a new provider, and two of the old providers, Country Connector and Karen’s Errands, didn’t renew with Veyo, Shanahan said.

In many cases, Shanahan said, the ride service won’t change much for the people using it.

“They’re probably not going to see a whole lot difference,” he said. “They’re going to see the same drivers.”

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Not all the providers are happy with the new contract. Some of them started a website, idahoproviders.com, on which they complain about the rates and other issues with Veyo. The page’s administrators didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Susan Bergen, the head of Country Connector Transport, said in an email she worried about the use of independent drivers, which she said would replace some drivers who have been driving for the same clients for years with strangers the clients don’t know. She said this would be especially hard on more vulnerable Medicaid clients such as the elderly, refugees and children with mental illnesses and disabilities, and that many of the providers under AMR weren’t signing up with Veyo.

“Thousands upon thousands of children who cannot speak up when they are afraid or anxious or uncomfortable,” she said. “Children that do not know how to express their panic and apprehension will be picked and transported by a person who has no idea what their special needs are. Ride Share Drivers will have no idea that Johnny likes the window seat, or Timmy needs to sit behind an empty seat because he pulls hair. The familiarity will be gone and for what? It will be removed and replaced with a stranger because it’s a less expensive option.”

Shanahan said the independent drivers would likely be used more often for those trips that aren’t scheduled in advance, with the regular providers ferrying people to and from prearranged appointments. He said they need to go through the same screening as the drivers who work for the transportation companies, including a minimum age of 23, a criminal background check and CPR certification.

“The qualifications for independent drivers (are the) exact same as any other drivers,” he said.

Shanahan said drivers would be able to either stay with AMR’s old fee structure or switch to Veyo’s, which works out to less than AMR paid for a trip of less than six miles but more for a longer trip. The average trip in Region 5, Shanahan said, is a little more than 11 miles.

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