August 9, 2013

Amid troubles, some ask: Why revamp Maine ride system?

New federal rules and money were factors as officials, some skeptical, agreed to changes in the program for Maine's poor.

By Joe Lawlor
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Rebecca Lee gets a ride home from her father from the Goodwill Neurorehab Services at Bayside after her regular MaineCare-funded ride failed to show because of a "medical emergency" on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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PDF: Coordinated Transportation Solutions' official statement

LogistiCare denied Wednesday that there were major problems in York County, claiming 99.7 percent of scheduled trips were made without complaints.

But Collins noted reports of problems with LogistiCare -- a for-profit company that operates in 43 states -- in Missouri, Michigan, Mississippi and Wisconsin.

And Pam Lee of Kennebunkport, whose 27-year-old daughter needs the program for rides to neurological appointments in Portland, told the Press Herald that she has heard from many parents and patients in York County who have had problems.

Jack DeBeradinis, president of the Portland-based Regional Transportation Program, used to arrange rides in Cumberland County but is now making budget cuts and layoffs.

Even though state officials allowed his program to bid to remain a broker, it would have had to make sure that 75 percent of the rides were provided by another agency. So the Regional Transportation Program would have lost business in either situation, and DeBeradinis said the greater risk of being a broker under the new rules wasn't worth it.

DeBeradinis was left with two unappealing choices -- forgo the state contract and give up nearly $3 million a year in federal money, or potentially go out of business. He chose the painful budget cuts -- his agency is laying off four employees and did not fill four vacant positions -- to stay in business.

"Our budget is about half of what it used to be" before Aug. 1, he said.

DeBeradinis said, though, that the problems with the rides may be temporary. "I do believe that (Coordinated Transportation Solutions) is trying," he said.

Penquis, a community agency in Bangor, navigated the new rules and successfully bid on a $7 million annual contract, said Charles Newton, chief executive officer. Bangor is the only region in Maine that kept its local provider for the program.

"It's been going pretty well," Newton said. "For us, Aug. 1 wasn't much different than July 31."

Newton said the problems in the rest of the state may just be growing pains that will be resolved soon.

Courtney Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, said her agency is monitoring the situation but believes it will improve.

"We believe it will begin to run smoothly soon," Jenkins said. "We want the state to work through the framework that they've chosen."


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

Twitter: @joelawlorph


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