The company whose state contracts to arrange rides for MaineCare patients will not be renewed because of subpar performance was paid an extra $1.2 million in February.
Department of Health and Human Services officials could not say Tuesday why Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions was paid $3.3 million in February while in all previous months it was paid about $2.1 million, according to state documents.
A state lawmaker said he has been asking DHHS officials the same question for weeks.
Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, said he noticed the discrepancy in late February and has been seeking an explanation ever since, without success.
“It’s very concerning for me to see them being paid more,” he said. “If anything, the state should be withholding money from them.”
Earlier this year, the state announced that it will not renew Coordinated Transportation Solutions’ six contracts when they expire on June 30 because of performance problems.
CTS won contracts totaling $28.3 million to arrange rides in most of the state, excluding the Bangor and York County regions. Since it started work Aug. 1, thousands of low-income Mainers who are entitled to free transportation have missed rides to doctor’s offices, physical therapy, cancer treatments and other medical appointments.
The state is opening the contracts for 2014-15 to other companies, which have until March 28 to submit bids.
Gattine, a member of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said there may have been a “perfectly legitimate reason” to pay the contractor more money in February, but the state should be providing the answers.
Daniel Donovan, transportation director for Aroostook Regional Transportation, said, “This doesn’t pass the good smell test.”
Company President David White wrote in an email response to questions that all answers about payments by the state would have to come from the DHHS.
In state documents released in December, CTS appeared to ask the state for more money, arguing that the state had underestimated the number of rides that had to be coordinated. The documents suggest that the company was having financial issues related to the rides program.
“An amendment to our contract to address the financial implications of increased volume and demand is in process,” said the Corrective Action Plan that the company filed last fall at the state’s request.
The state is paying CTS and two other contractors flat fees to coordinate rides, which officials have touted as a positive change from the previous fee-for-service system. Last year, the state switched from a patchwork system of local transportation companies arranging and providing rides to a regional broker system, in response to federal guidelines calling for more transparency in the program.
State officials said that with flat fees, the risk of cost overruns would fall to the contractors, not the state. Gattine said he believes that, in most cases, the state should hold to that philosophy and not give CTS more money.
“I guess this proves that everything is negotiable,” said Connie Garber, transportation director for York County Community Action.
Donovan said, “If they underbid, (Coordinated Transportation Solutions) should eat that cost. I thought that’s how it was supposed to work.”
Gattine and Mary Lou Dyer, managing director of the Maine Association for Community Service Providers, said they are still hearing many complaints about missed rides in regions covered by CTS.
Jack DeBerardinis, director of the Portland-based Regional Transportation Program, said complaints about the contractor have eased in the Portland region.
Although Aroostook Regional Transportation is preparing bids and seeking to replace CTS in its region, DeBerardinis said his organization will not bid on the contract for the Portland region partly because it has lost too much money under the new system and no longer has the financial resources to bid.
He said his agency would have to hire an additional 10 or so call center employees to arrange rides and complete the mandatory paperwork.
Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at: