September 17, 2013

Phone calls show MaineCare transport mess persists

With DHHS still evaluating the program after six weeks, the companies hired to coordinate rides say service is better. Yet phone calls placed by Rep. Matthew Peterson suggest otherwise.

By Joe Lawlor jlawlor@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Jeannette Bancroft, 74, of New Gloucester, left, listens as Lauren Hurley, of Creative Work Systems, testifies about the problems Bancroft, who uses a wheelchair, has had getting rides to the Morrison Center in Scarborough, during a meeting of the Legislature's Health and Human Services committee on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, in the Cross Building in Augusta.

Joe Phelan / Staff Photographer

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Listen to phone call for MaineCare ride:

 

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Audio courtesy of MPBN

While White had no explanation for what Peterson heard, he said that, overall, callers' average wait time has decreased from 23 minutes when the program started to two minutes over the past few weeks. He said complaints have been cut in half, and the system is improving.

"We're doing the best we can," White told the Press Herald after the meeting.

But Peterson said there's no way to measure how many people don't even call anymore because they can't get through to make appointments. If problems persist, many people will simply give up and go without needed appointments, he said.

Jeanette Bancroft, 74, an intellectually disabled resident of New Gloucester who attends the Morrison Center in Scarborough to work in the greenhouse in a sheltered work environment, has missed work since the new system started.

Bancroft's caseworker, Lauren Hurley, said she tried to arrange rides for her, but was put on hold for hours. When she finally got a response, Coordinated Transportation Solutions told her that it had "exhausted" all of its options and couldn't provide rides.

White said he didn't know the particulars of Bancroft's situation but he would look into it.

"Our job is not to deny rides or ask people to reschedule their rides," he said.

The state's decision to move to a new system was spurred by federal requirements for additional transparency and accountability. States have wide latitude to comply with federal rules. Maine went with a regional system in which the contractors that arrange the rides are separate from the agencies that provide them.

Previously, local agencies often arranged and provided the rides and the system worked well, many patients have told the Press Herald over the past few weeks.

Farnsworth said he will introduce a bill that would require the state to look at other ways to comply with federal rules, excluding the regional broker system. The bill would be debated in the session that starts in January.

Ride providers, including Jim Wood, who heads transportation for the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, said there have been only minimal improvements since Coordinated Transportation Solutions took over, and his staff is struggling with more work to try to solve logistical problems.

The ride broker serving the York County region, Atlanta-based LogistiCare, appears to be having fewer problems than Coordinated Transportation Solutions, Farnsworth said, although there are still issues in York County.

Robert Harrison, a LogistiCare vice president who heads the Maine operation for a company that's in 43 states, told the committee the first week was difficult but the operation has steadily improved.

"Have things gotten better? Yes," Harrison said.

Staff Writer Steve Mistler contributed to this report.

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

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: @joelawlordp

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