September 17, 2013

MaineCare ride firm chief calls 21-hour hold 'anomaly'

David White says there is no exact timeline for when all ride problems will be worked out.

By JESSE SCARDINA Morning Sentinel

The 21-hour call on hold to arrange a ride for a MaineCare patient last week in Waterville was an anomaly, according to the president of the company that coordinates the rides.

David White, president of Coordinated Transportation Solutions, said the company has been unable so far to find a record of the marathon phone call in its database that psychologist Richard Staples made Wednesday afternoon.

White wondered whether Staples had called the wrong number but didn't dispute that the phone call had taken place.

"We're tracking it down, but so far we're unable to find that call," White said in a telephone interview Monday.

White was contacted initially Thursday for comment about Staples' call. He contacted the Morning Sentinel on Sunday once he and company officials had a chance to look through phone call records, he said, and was reached for comment Monday.

"I did have a chance to call Dr. Staples and had an opportunity to talk for a few minutes about it," White said. "What I think is encouraging is that Staples called the customer service center a couple of times and indicated that he got through with little problem at all. That other call seems like an anomaly."

Staples said he told White on Monday that the number he called had matched the number on CTS's website.

"I got back to him Monday and basically he wanted to know what happened, what I could remember about who I called and who I talked to," Staples said Monday afternoon.

Staples, a behavior health psychologist for more than 35 years in Waterville, was calling for a ride home for a patient. After speaking to someone at the call center, Staples was placed on hold. The call stayed on hold for 21 hours, until Staples disconnected the call the next day.

CTS and another out-of-state contractor took over the job of arranging rides for low-income MaineCare recipients on Aug. 1, and since then the state has been flooded with complaints about missed rides to doctor's appointments, therapy sessions and other medical services and difficulty contacting the ride brokers to arrange them.

While White said there is no exact timeline for when all call and transportation problems would be worked out, he said there have been continued improvements from when the change in process took place Aug. 1.

"There's been a lot of progress. We're way ahead from where we were a month ago," White said. White also said the call center in Lewiston will continue to hire more employees.

"We have training classes going on this week for additional call takers and office personnel," White said.

CTS was chosen by the Maine Department Health and Human Services as a nonemergency transportation broker for most of the state.

John Martins, spokesman for DHHS, said the department is sticking to Commissioner Mary Mayhew's statement that the companies -- including LogistiCare, which covers York County -- have weeks to straighten the problems out, but wouldn't put a specific timeline on whether the state would discontinue the contracts, which the state has the authority to do at any time.

"Our goal is focusing on continued improvement, and we've seen a level of improvement," Martins said. "It's not to the level of acceptability we'd like, but we're seeing movement in the right direction, and there hasn't been any regression."

Martins said DHHS is waiting to receive claims data from MaineCare. The data should start arriving in the next few days, he said, but he's not sure how long it will take to receive them all.

"We'll be able to see if the amount of provided rides they reported matches up with the number of claims," Martins said.

 

Jesse Scardina can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

jscardina@mainetoday.com

 

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