August 22, 2013

Loss of drivers cited for MaineCare ride troubles

A new contractor says it's recovering after many drivers quit over lower reimbursement rates.

By Joe Lawlor jlawlor@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Robert Harrison, who supervises operations at LogistiCare’s new call center in Kennebunk, said ride services for MaineCare recipients have improved since the beginning of August.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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A van at the LogistiCare office in Kennebunk is among eight the contractor says it bought to provide rides because it lost so many volunteer drivers over reimbursement rates.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Many states have adopted similar systems, Harrison said, and LogistiCare is operating in 43 states.

"This is our core business," said Linowes. "We have a high degree of satisfaction in many states."

LogistiCare's call center in Kennebunk occupies a former dentist's office, where 12 employees take calls and plan routes for patients. They sit in cubicles answering calls in an otherwise quiet room.

A screen displaying call wait times showed all zeros Wednesday, which meant that callers were getting through without delay. If there's a rush of calls, they can be routed to call centers in other states, Harrison said.

LogistiCare and Coordinated Transportation Solutions hired Maine workers for their call centers. The local nonprofit agencies that previously dispatched and provided the rides had to lay off employees.

Those agencies ran the program with few problems, patients have told the Press Herald.

Harrison said every complaint is important to his company.

"You need data to evaluate effectively," he said. "We want to know about complaints, because that's the way we correct the problems."

Harrison and Linowes dismissed criticism over the past week about brokers like LogistiCare having a motive to limit service to earn higher profits.

The contractors receive flat fees based on the number of patients they serve. Critics say the fewer rides the contractors provide, the more money they make, so they have an incentive to turn down patients.

But Harrison said there's a "moral imperative" and a federal requirement to provide rides to people in need. The state contracts also contain numerous performance standards.

Harrison said some people don't really need the rides, and it's part of LogistiCare's job to weed out those people so that the government is not unnecessarily providing the service.

Harrison said he's heard stories in other states where people were getting free Medicaid-provided rides to beaches and casinos.

"That's one way we save states money," Harrison said. "We get rid of trips that shouldn't be run."

Maine has not predicted that the contractors will save the state money.

"You have to be good stewards of the taxpayer money and provide high-quality levels of service," Linowes said. "That's the balance that we hit every day."

But Lee, in Kennebunkport, said she's uncomfortable with call center employees from a private company making life-altering decisions for patients.

"Who at LogistiCare is qualified to make those decisions?" she said. 

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

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: @joelawlorph

 

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