Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew addresses the Appropriations Committee yesterday on the transportation program, and other issues.
"We are holding feet to the fire to see a level of improvement, and we have seen some," Mayhew told members of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee Thursday.
Those having their proverbial feet held to the fire are the two out-of-state contractors who this month took over the job of coordinating and providing MaineCare recipients with rides to medical appointments.
Local non-profits had previously provided the service, which is now carried out by LogistiCare of Atlanta, Georgia, which services the York County area. That contract cost the state $5.1 million. Most of the rest of the state is served by a company out of Connecticut called Consolidated Transportation Solutions, or CTS, at a cost of $28.3 million.
Since they took over, the state has received more than 2,000 complaints, mostly from patients unable to get a ride.
This should never have happened, says Mayhew. But, she told lawmakers, at least the contractors are doing something about it.
"The brokers have hired additional staff, they have purchased vehicles," Mayhew said, "And certainly one of the major areas of concern has been the call center and the delays to getting through to the call center, and that particular call center has increased their staff, significantly."
"I think Mary Mayhew has a major problem on her hands and my heart goes out to her," says Democratic state Sen. Dawn Hill. Hill, of York, is the Senate chair of the Appropriations Committee.
Hill says there's only so much control the state can have when working with major out-of-state companies like LogistiCare and CTS. She says the contract between the state and the two companies did not include a transition plan that would have made a more gradual shift of responsibility to the new providers.
Hill says she would also have liked to see a system of goals and penalties established, to help ensure the companies met their targets.
"Obviously DHHS can cancel the contract any time, but I realize that's not that easy to do," Hill says, "because even if they canceled the contract they have to have another system in place, and I'm not sure it would even be that smooth going back to the original system, again, just because of the sheer magnitude of the transportation system for (MaineCare) throughout the state."
Commissioner Mayhew, meanwhile, says there are "limted other remedies" for the MaineCare transportation problem. If it can't be resolved successfully, she added, other decisions will need to be made.
Neither CTS nor LogistiCare would provide comment. LogistiCare spokesman Todd DeFeo did provide a brief written statement, saying that the state of Maine was "doing a great job of managing to a set of performance standards as part of the contract." He went on to say that LogistiCare is well within those standards.
An employee at Consolidated Transportation Solutions in Connecticut told MPBN that company president Dave White was on the road and unavailable for comment.
Photo: Mal Leary