AUGUSTA, Maine — The veto train kept rolling Monday night as Gov. Paul LePage nixed a resolve that would have ended the contracts of three brokers that administer nonemergency medical transportation services for Medicaid recipients.
The resolve came after months of controversy surrounding the largest broker, Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions.
The company received six state contracts worth more than $28 million to provide coverage for a large portion of the state but has been plagued with patient complaints about missed appointments, late rides and calls that took hours to be answered — if they were answered at all.
The Department of Health and Human Services pledged in February that it would not renew Coordinated Transportation Solutions’ contracts, and it issued a request for proposals from other companies that may be better suited to handle the calls.
The vetoed bill, LD 1663, would have required the department opt not to renew contracts with that company or the two other brokers and would have canceled the request for proposals in order to replace it with one that prioritizes Maine companies and penalizes Coordinated Transportation Solutions and any other contract holder. The bill proposes that a new system be in place by October at the latest.
In his veto letter, LePage blasted lawmakers’ proposal and said legislative tampering with contracts would diminish Maine’s ability to partner with private businesses in the future.
“The ignorance of the timeline for a request for proposals and subsequent contracting process is astonishing,” he said. “However, more important is the impact this resolve would have upon the state’s contracts moving forward. What company would want to bid on a Maine request for proposals or enter into a contract with the state if they felt the Legislature would — on a whim — cancel the request, terminate the contract or defund vendor payments?”
In passing the bill, Democrats said the bill was necessary to address what they called mismanagement of the program under LePage’s administration. They also raised questions about increased payments made to Coordinated Transportation Solutions after DHHS said it would not renew the company’s contract.
In a response to the veto letter, the bill’s sponsor — Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash — called the governor’s opposition a “head-scratcher.”
“For months, clients, providers and lawmakers have been frustrated by the silence and lack of action from Gov. LePage on this bungled transportation system,” he said in a written statement. “What kind of CEO keeps paying for a contract when the vendors fail to deliver the service?”
The veto is likely to be sustained when it is considered by the Legislature. The bill originally passed with majorities composed mostly of Democrats — not enough support to reach the two-thirds threshold necessary to override a veto.
LePage on Monday also vetoed another bill, LD 1619, which permits the governor to make “alternate commissioner” appointments to the Public Utilities Commission. In the event the PUC is unable to attain a quorum because of conflicts of interest or another reason, a fill-in commissioner would be randomly assigned.
In his veto letter, LePage said he did not disagree with the substance of the bill but was seeking to allow more time for the administration to work with lawmakers on compromise.
LePage submitted a governor’s bill Monday to amend the language and said he “looks forward to continued work with Democrats and Republicans” and is “confident that the amended, bipartisan bill will be good policy for Maine citizens.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.