LEWISTON, Maine — The company that lost the state contract to broker rides for MaineCare patients after thousands of complaints and missed pick-ups has offered bonuses to employees who stay on and keep answering the phones through next week.
At least one lawmaker wants to know who’s paying for it.
Coordinated Transportation Solutions’ $28 million, yearlong contract for non-emergency rides ended on June 30.
Maine Department of Health and Human Services spokesman John Martins said Friday that retention payments have been offered to call center staff who keep working through July 31, the end of the transition period with the new provider, LogistiCare.
Connecticut-based CTS has 45 employees answering phones in Lewiston.
“This retention payment was offered in order to ensure that the appropriate staffing levels could be maintained to answer calls and serve MaineCare members,” Martins said.
The company had concerns about employees leaving for new jobs before the end of the transition period, he said. “(DHHS) continues to make operational decisions to ensure that MaineCare members who rely on transportation services to medically necessary services have the ability to schedule appointments and receive rides.”
He said the amount of the retention payments was based on the employee’s rate of pay. He deferred additional questions to CTS.
“CTS would have to provide you with the details of the payment,” he said. “All aspects of these payments fell within our contract with CTS.”
An employee at CTS headquarters said President David White was out of the office and directed questions to a business development manager. The Sun Journal didn’t receive a response.
State Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said she would like to know who was paying the bonuses.
“It is still not clear to me who is footing this additional expense — the company or Maine taxpayer,” Rotundo said. “The confusion around this contract is another example of how poorly DHHS has managed the contract from the very beginning. The most vulnerable people in this community — seniors, the disabled, the brain injured — who depend upon these rides continue to be hurt through the governor’s mismanagement of this critical program in spite of the very best and dedicated efforts of those who have answered the phones.”
The ride service is designed to bring MaineCare patients to doctor’s appointments, therapy and work programs. Last year it switched from long-standing arrangements with agencies like Community Concepts and Western Maine Transportation Services that both scheduled and provided rides.
People call in now to be paired with volunteer drivers and ride agencies.
The Atlanta-based LogistiCare will take over ride brokering in Lewiston, Portland, Aroostook County and Down East on Aug. 1. It’s covered York County for the past year.
The company plans to employ 75 people at call centers in South Portland and Kennebunk and anticipates brokering 7,500 rides per day, according to a LogistiCare fact sheet.
LogistiCare has answered hundreds of calls since July 18 and will be ready to take over Aug. 1, said Robert Harrison, senior vice president for operations.
“We feel really good about where we’re at, both in the greater Lewiston area as well as the other three areas of the state,” Harrison said Friday. “We’ve finished contracting or are about to finish contracting with all the transportation providers. We’ve purchased nearly three dozen vehicles as back-up. We feel we’re ready, we’re certainly excited.”
One or two workers from CTS have been hired by LogistiCare’s South Portland call center, he said.