Six Maine-based nonprofits have bid for contracts to replace the Connecticut-based company that has been criticized for its performance arranging rides for MaineCare recipients.

Those groups will face intense competition, with five national transportation companies also bidding.

Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions submitted bids for all six regions of Maine that it covers now, even though the state has decided not to renew its contracts. The company was not precluded from bidding on new contracts, which begin July 1.

The bids were due Friday, for contracts to be awarded in mid-April.

“It’s a crapshoot,” said Daniel Donovan of Aroostook Regional Transportation, which submitted a bid for its region. “We gave it our best.”

Six of the state’s eight regions – excluding the Bangor and York County regions – were open for contractors to submit bids. Unlike last year, when only two local nonprofits bid on the service, five of those regions now have Maine-based bidders.

Only the Portland region has no local bidder, since the Portland-based Regional Transportation Program decided not to bid. Its director said recently that the nonprofit isn’t in good enough financial shape to bid.

The six regions were opened for bidding after the Maine Department of Health and Human Services decided not to renew the six contracts won last year by Coordinated Transportation Solutions, totaling $28.3 million.

Maine switched from a system of local nonprofit groups arranging and providing rides to the regional broker system Aug. 1 to comply with federal guidelines that would prevent potential fraud and abuse.

But since the system began, thousands of low-income MaineCare patients have missed rides to appointments. Pressure to improve the system has been building from lawmakers, MaineCare patients and those affected by missed appointments.

The state did not give preferences to local nonprofits, but modified the requirements for bidders, giving Maine-based groups a somewhat better shot at winning the new contracts, experts say.

The state also fixed problems with reimbursement for volunteer drivers that created a disincentive for local groups to bid on the contracts last year.

Rick McCarthy, a lobbyist for the Maine Transit Association, said he’s pleased that Maine-based companies bid on the work but the true test will be whether the DHHS awards contracts to them.

“Whether this is going to work, it’s a little too early to tell,” he said.

Bidding to serve all six regions are Medical Transportation Management Inc. of Missouri, Total Transit Inc. of Arizona, Coordinated Transportation Solutions and LogistiCare Solutions of Georgia, which now covers the York County region.

Bangor-based Penquis is bidding for the Augusta and midcoast regions. Lefleur Transportation of Mississippi is bidding for the Augusta, Portland and Lewiston regions.

Five Maine nonprofits are bidding in their home regions: Aroostook Regional Transportation System, Washington Hancock Community Action, Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, Waldo Community Action Partners and Community Concepts Inc. of Lewiston.

Donovan, with Aroostook Regional Transportation, said each bid is scored by the state, which has discretion not to choose the lowest bidder. Only about 25 percent of the bid scoring is based on price, he said.

For instance, Donovan said, Aroostook Regional Transportation, which bid last year, doubled the proposed number of workers in its call center.

State Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland, called it a “step in the right direction” that Maine bidders have a shot at winning contracts. But he said it won’t stop the Legislature from trying to pass a bill to give Maine contractors preference for the MaineCare transportation contracts.

Farnsworth said, however, that the bill will likely be vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage and its supporters do not have enough votes for an override.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

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