AUGUSTA, Maine — The state announced Thursday that it will not renew the contract of a beleaguered agency that dispatches rides for MaineCare patients when it expires in June.
Since Aug. 1, Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions has been operating under a $28.3 million contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to manage the state’s non-emergency ride program for Medicaid patients. The program is meant to provide rides to medical and nonmedical appointments alike.
Roughly 45,000 MaineCare recipients use the transportation program, and CTS is the largest broker in the state, serving six of eight regional transportation zones. The company takes phone calls from MaineCare beneficiaries looking to schedule rides and makes appointments with area service providers.
The company has come under siege after thousands of patients reported that they had missed appointments or been stranded because rides did not show up. At its worst, nearly 60 percent of callers were hanging up out of frustration before their calls were answered. In one notable instance, a caller was left on hold for more than 20 hours. The company also failed to obtain an insurance bond, as required by the contracts, which would have reimbursed the state for services not provided if its contracts had been revoked
In a news release issued Thursday, the Office of MaineCare Services said the contract will be allowed to expire on June 30.
“There have been consistent and significant problems with CTS’ performance,” said Stefanie Nadeau, director of MaineCare Services, in testimony delivered to the Health and Human Services Committee. “The department attempted to work with CTS to correct these deficiencies, and while improvement was seen in many areas, in whole, they continue to remain deficient.”
Nadeau said her agency would put out new requests for applications in each of CTS’ six regions, and it would continue gathering information while CTS finishes their contract.
Lawmakers — especially Democrats — have voiced varying levels of outrage at the company’s poor performance. In December, the top House Democrat on the Appropriations Committee called for the contract to be terminated. Later that month, LePage said he expected CTS to lose at least some of its contracts.
David White, president of CTS, said in a statement Thursday that he supports DHHS’ decision to reopen the bid process in June, though he said he is unsure whether CTS will bid for the contracts again in June.
White also said the complaint rate today is less than 1 percent of all calls, a figure that Nadeau backed up.
Members of the DHHS Committee heard comments from the public Thursday on two proposals related to the rides program for MaineCare recipients. One, by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, would sever the contract with CTS.
Jackson said the fact the contract will be allowed to expire only makes his proposal more pressing.
“Now that they [CTS] know they’re not going to get their contract renewed, what incentive is there to do anything to fix the problems they’ve had for five months?” he said during the public hearing. “I don’t want to see this company get a golden parachute on the way out the door.”
White said CTS would continue to fulfil its contractual obligations, despite the writing being on the wall.
“CTS will continue to work in partnership with [the Office of MaineCare Services] to establish a compliant transportation model for MaineCare members,” he wrote. “After managing the program for several months, it is clear that Maine is best served by the non-emergency transportation model that was diligently researched and originally selected by the Office of MaineCare Services.”
The other proposal, a bill by Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, would replace the state’s five-month-old MaineCare transportation brokerage system with a Vermont-style system in which the state contracts directly with service providers.
“We’ve paid money to a middle man when we could be providing our taxpayer dollars to the actual providers of the service,” she said Thursday.
Nadeau said her office opposes Lachowicz’ measure. She says changing to a Vermont-style system would reduce the amount of federal reimbursement received by the state, resulting in a loss of $1.2 million annually, plus $6 million in other federal funding.
“The failure of a particular broker since implementation represents only the actions of that one company, and not the brokerage model itself,” she said.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.