The roots of the MaineCare rides debacle are in Washington, D.C., not Augusta. Still, the mess could have been avoided if the Maine Legislature had approved a bill I submitted during the previous session.

Thousands of complaints about late pickups or completely missed rides over the past six months led to the state of Maine deciding last week not to renew its contract with Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions.

It all could have been avoided if the Obama administration hadn’t decided to meddle with a program that was working just fine.

For years, the state of Maine contracted with local transportation companies to provide transportation to medical appointments for MaineCare (Medicaid) patients. The system worked, with few complaints.

The problems began when the Obama administration lodged complaints about the way states were administering their Medicaid rides programs. In short, the administration decided to add a layer of bureaucracy to the program that was unnecessary.

This federal mandate led to the state of Maine entering into contracts with out-of-state transportation companies, including Coordinated Transportation Solutions, which has been the subject of numerous complaints in the past.

In the first session of the 126th Legislature, I was the sponsor of a bill that would have allowed Maine to continue to contract with local transportation providers to handle non-emergency rides for MaineCare recipients instead of hiring out-of-state companies to provide regional coverage.

During the hearings for this bill, I pointed out that the two companies that were hired had a history of not fulfilling the requirements of their contracts. But my warnings fell on deaf ears.

I believe that in order to restore the dependability of the MaineCare rides system, we need to look locally rather than nationally for solutions. Those who depend on the service are counting on us to get it right.

Sen. Ron Collins, R-Wells

member, Committee on Transportation