August 14, 2013

Rides issue frustrates MaineCare recipients

Scores of people across the state have missed appointments after the switch to a new transportation system.

By JESSE SCARDINA Morning Sentinel

Lynne Richmond, 68, of Augusta relies on MaineCare-funded transportation because she doesn't have a vehicle.

On the last two Fridays, however, no one showed up to take her to appointments with doctors. She finally decided to take a cab rather than risk rescheduling for a third time.

Richmond said the experiences left her frustrated and upset.

"It's not like I can jump in a vehicle and go someplace because I don't have a car," she said.

Richmond is one of dozens, if not hundreds, of people across Maine who have missed appointments in recent weeks following the switch to a new transportation system for Maine- Care patients.

Richmond said she didn't bother calling Coordinated Transportation Solutions, the Connecticut company hired to oversee the rides, explaining that it takes an hour to get someone on the phone.

Instead, she called the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, which usually provides her rides. Richmond said someone from the program told her that she wasn't scheduled for a ride.

"We've been having problems since (Coordinated Transportation Solutions) took over," Richmond said. "I never know when I'm going to be picked up to go to the Cohen Center or anything."

"I'd like to have it work like it did before," she added.

Coordinated Transportation Solutions couldn't be reached for comment.

Since the new system was implemented Aug. 1 for MaineCare patients who need transportation for nonemergency medical appointments, there has been little success resolving complaints and continued missteps that frustrate patients.

Carol Penney, 69, of Waterville had a therapy appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning, but no one showed up to take her across town.

The same thing happened to Que Tolefree, 49, of Readfield, who relies on the transportation to take him and his child to several medical appointments per month.

"I called CTS on the 8th and booked all my appointments. They never sent rides for me, and I've missed three different doctor appointments today," Tolefree said Monday.

He is a MaineCare patient and needs transportation for his son's speech therapy appointments as well as his treatment for epilepsy and other health problems.

After appointments were missed because of rides not showing up, Tolefree said Coordinated Transportation Solutions blamed the issues on system problems.

"I called CTS, and they said it was a system issue between them and KVCAP," he said. "I don't know why they're trying to manage this stuff in Maine from Connecticut."

On Aug. 1, MaineCare changed its transportation services because of a federal mandate, which required rides to be brokered and for transports to be done by separate entities, avoiding a conflict of interest.

MaineCare Services contracted with Coordinated Transportation Solutions in Connecticut to coordinate the transportation for MaineCare patients statewide except for the Bangor region and York County. Kennebec Valley Community Action Program coordinated and provided transportation for patients in Somerset and Kennebec counties for more 40 years.

Meanwhile, Penney is wondering how she's going to get to a doctor's appointment Thursday in Waterville.

"I shouldn't have to go through this. It's taking a toll on me," Penney said over the phone, struggling to hold back tears. "If the system isn't broke, why are they fixing it? I depend on those rides. There was no need to do this."

Faced with a slew of complaints, a KVCAP employee said the agency is working with Coordinated Transportation Solutions to resolve the problems.

"We're still working through data transfer system issues," said Jim Wood, transportation director for KVCAP. "We did make progress over the weekend."

Wood said configuring Coordinated Transportation Solutions' system with KVCAP's has taken longer than expected, but that progress should continue as time goes by.

"It turned out to be more challenging than we thought," he said. "We're assuming over the next few weeks things should get better. Our (information technology) guys have been working closely with theirs."

-- Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Paul Koenig contributed to this report.

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

jscardina@mainetoday.com

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