CORYDON, IN (WAVE) – Corydon, Indiana, is 130 miles from Indianapolis. But if you spend much time around the Corydon Pain Management Clinic, you’ll see a fairly steady stream of Indianapolis taxi cabs dropping off and then picking up patients.
I watched every morning for a couple of weeks and saw anywhere from 1 to 3 Indianapolis cabs there at a time, almost every morning. Indy Airport Taxi, Yellow, and Checker Cabs from the 317 area code.
“You guys come all the way down from Indy?” I asked one of the drivers.
“Yeah,” he said.
“How much you charge for the ride?” I asked.
“This is, uh, insurance companies,” he said. “Insurance company and Indy Airport company, they make the deal, we don’t know how much is it.”
“I come from Bedford, Indiana,” one female patient said. “It was an hour and thirty minutes to get here, and it was all free.”
“That would normally be an expensive cab ride wouldn't it?” I asked.
“It's about $200 or $300 normally if you pay cash, it’s crazy,” she said. “I do Medicaid. If you do Medicaid, and you want to go to the doctor, it's free.”
“He comes all the way from Indianapolis to pick me up and bring me all the way down here,” another patient from the Bedford area said.
"Are you Medicaid?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
“So they charge Medicaid for the ride?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
“How much did they charge to come down for the cab ride?” I asked another patient.
“My insurance pays for it so I don't know,” she said.
“Is it Medicaid?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
The patients I talked to said there are much closer doctors to where they live but they prefer Corydon Pain Clinic.
“They actually will treat you and look into it in more depth and see what’s wrong and treat you before they just ‘oh here’s some pain pills go on your merry way,’” one patient said.
“It’s not because we’re a pill mill,” Dr. Elmer Dunbar said. “It’s not because we’re giving out pain meds to everybody. We stress multi-modal therapy.”
Dunbar said Corydon Pain Management Clinic is getting an influx of patients from south-central Indiana because of the shut down of a pain doctor’s offices in Peru, Greenwood, and Bloomington. Dunbar explained that 140 of their 5,000 patients have come from within Indianapolis’ city limits. He estimates only 60% of their patients get prescriptions.
"Law enforcement is serious about this,” Dunbar said. “They’re not letting doctors off. They’re not letting patients off.”
“Do you feel watched in any way?” I asked.
“Yeah but I think that’s good,” he said.
How much do these cab rides cost? Indy Airport Taxi would not talk to me about it or return emails. Indianapolis Yellow Cab would only tell me the rate they charge is $2 per mile.
A Medicaid spokesperson wrote: “Trips of this length would require prior authorization and a justification of medical necessity. This authorization is provided by the managed care entity that serves each patient.”
"The maximum amount a taxi is being paid to transport a person on Medicaid to the doctor and home is $30,“ Medicaid’s spokesperson said.
Something doesn’t add up.
I got one cab driver to call dispatch and quote me an exact price. “$195.00,” the cab drive stated.
“Is that $195 to insurance?” I asked.
“If you want to pay cash, same price,” he said.
We kept asking questions but kept running into privacy laws, layers of PR, and lots of red tape.
Finally we took the question to law enforcement.
Indiana has the 11th highest statewide opioid prescription rate in the country. Harrison County has one of the highest in Indiana at 92 per 100 residents. The Harrison County prosecutor has been fighting the opioid epidemic for years. He didn’t know about this situation until we told him.
"Certainly it has piqued our interest,” Harrison County prosecutor Otto Schalk said. “There is a correlation between Medicaid recipients and those abusing opioids. One of the reasons we see, with Medicaid as opposed to a private insurer, is that there's not the amount of checks and balances."
Meanwhile, the cabs keep rolling in with satisfied customers.
“I come here every month for the last 2 years,” a patient said. “I love it here."