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Jackson: End Maine's Contract with Embattled MaineCare Rides Provider
01/09/2014   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

The state department of Health and Human Services has decided that it will not renew contracts with an embattled Connecticut broker who has been trying to provide thousands of MaineCare recipents with rides to health care appointments. Coordinated Transportation Solutions will have the option of rebidding its $28 million contract when the agreement expires in June. But some lawmakers want the state to sever relations with CTS now. A.J. Higgins has this report.

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Even as news was circulating throughout the State House about the state's decision not to renew its contract with Coordinated Transportation Solutions, state Sen. Troy Jackson was defending his bill to immediately end the agreement with the embattled non-profit company.

The Allagash Democratic leader told members of the Health and Human Services Committee that more harm than good was likely to arise for the state by maintaining its agreement with CTS through the contract's June 30th termination date. And for one simple reason:

"Now that they know that they're not going to get their contract renewed, what incentive is there for them to do anything to fix the problems that they've had for the last five months?" Jackson said.

Earlier in the day, the state Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that the state would not continue its contracts with CTS, which provides transportation services for MaineCare clients in Cumberland and Aroostook counties as well as western, midcoast, central and downeast regions of the state. CTS hold contracts valued at a little more than $28 million.

Although all three of the state's MaineCare transportation brokers had received some complaints about the delivery of services, CTS racked up a stunning number of grievances over missed calls, delays - and in one case keeping a MaineCare client on hold for more than 20 hours.

The company has attempted to remedy problems in its transportation system through a corrective action plan. But Sen. Jackson says the state's real problem stems from its decision to broker with a few large transportation providers like CTS rather than return to the former system that relied on a number of regional non-profit agencies.

"As soon as the new system came in place, the phones started ringing, which I know you all have dealt with also, but unfortunately, it didn't stop ringing and it hasn't right up until this week," Jackson said. "And I do not think that taking the partisanship out of it and everything that we should continue to have this system that makes people have to miss rides, miss appointments and worry about their health care and making it to their jobs."

State Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, a Waterville Democrat, wants lawmakers to support her bill that would require the state to begin the process of returning back to its former regional agency approach to providing transportation for MaineCare clients using a federally approved approach already adopted in Vermont.

"Vermont satisfied the federal requirements, but maintained a system that relies on local non-profits arranging and delivering rides, similar to our system before the August 1st change," Lachowicz said.

But Stefanie Nadeau, director of the Office of MaineCare Services, says a better approach would be to seek vendors to take over CTS's lion's share of the transportation system.

"The department believes in the brokerage model," Nadeau said. "We believe that the accountability, the data that we need to run this program, the nights and weekend access, is extremely important."

A large number of people testified in favor of one or both MaineCare transportation bills. Among them was Judy Rawlings of Chesterville, a volunteer for the Maine Council on Aging.

"Patients weren't showing up, or if they did, they spent hours waiting for a return trip," Rawlings said. "Patients reported spending hours on hold waiting to speak to a human to book a MaineCare ride. Otherwise, they would book a ride and it wouldn't show up. Occasionally more than one provider would show up at the same time. All of these problems meant patients were sometimes going without necessary care and were losing hours scheduling and waiting for MaineCare rides."

State officials are interested in signing with a new vendor after the expiration of CTS's contract. Company officials said in a prepared statement they haven't decided whether to submit a new transportation proposal for Maine.


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