Politics

December 21, 2013

Gov. LePage criticized for MaineCare rides statements

The governor implied a troubled contractor may get some of its contracts renewed, but declined to be specific or answer questions.

By Joe Lawlor jlawlor@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Regan Cyr said he doesn’t understand why a MaineCare rides coordinator on the hot seat for subpar performance will likely get to stay on the job, even if it’s a somewhat reduced role.

“Flippin’ flamingos, something’s wrong here,” said Cyr, chief executive officer of Northern Aroostook Alternatives in Van Buren, a small nonprofit day program for developmentally challenged adults that uses the MaineCare rides program.

Cyr said Friday that Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions has caused nothing but problems for his agency since it took over arranging MaineCare rides on Aug. 1, and the company owes the nonprofit more than $5,000 in unreimbursed mileage.

Gov. Paul LePage briefly spoke on the topic with reporters on Thursday, saying it was likely that not all of the contracts for the rides coordinators would be renewed, but left open the possibility that some would be.

He declined to comment on Friday while helping the Salvation Army raise money in front of the Biddeford Walmart.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services also did not return requests for comment Friday, but no official decision has been made on the contracts, said LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, in an emailed response.

Coordinated Transportation Solutions landed a $28.3 million job with the state earlier this year, in six separate contracts to serve six of eight regions in the state, excluding the Bangor and York County areas.

Since the contracts started at the beginning of August, thousands of Mainers have missed rides to medical appointments, including to cancer and dialysis treatments, physical therapy and mental health counseling. The state put Coordinated Transportation Solutions on the equivalent of probation in October, threatening termination of the contracts.

Rep. Peter Stuckey, D-Portland and a member of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said the company should not still be on the job.

“It disgusts me that we’re talking about extending these contracts when we’re making it very difficult for people to get the support that they need,” Stuckey said.

Donna Cantone, 70, of Augusta said she needs to attend several doctor’s appointments per week for various chronic conditions and to treat a torn rotator cuff, but Coordinated Transportation Solutions has been unreliable. She said even though service improved somewhat in the past two weeks, she still missed three rides.

“They’re just terrible, they really are,” Cantone said.

On Thursday, during his remarks about the company, LePage praised its improved job performance. He did not specify which contracts would not be renewed, or a timetable for when it would happen, but the contracts are set to expire by Aug. 1. The state can cancel the contracts at any time for any reason.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, in a written statement last week, also noted improvements by the company, but did not indicate which way the state was leaning, saying that the state continues to “evaluate their performance.”

In documents filed with the state as part of its “Corrective Action Plan” for probation, Coordinated Transportation Solutions seemed to ask for additional money, claiming that the contract undercounted the number of wheelchair rides that needed to be arranged.

Mayhew acknowledged that “amendments” to the company’s contracts had been discussed, but declined to elaborate. The company also failed to take out a performance bond as required in the contracts, which would have allowed the state to recover costs associated with changing contractors.

Coordinated Transportation Solutions President David White was out of the office this week and did not respond to requests for comment.

Cyr said that the company has failed to pay him for providing rides, and has increased his paperwork load from 15 minutes per week to about three hours. Cyr said his program has been arranging and providing the rides for its clients, and only provides Coordinated Transportation Solutions with information on them.

He said the reimbursement rate, even when it is correctly paid to Northern Aroostook Alternatives, is stingier than under the previous system. Meanwhile, the company is paid well for work he has to do. Cyr estimates, based on the contract and how many clients he has, that the company has been paid more than $40,000 for his clients, while his program does most of the work.

“The system that the state imposed on us is time-consuming for less reimbursement,” Cyr said. He said the program is fraught with computer glitches.

On Aug. 1, Maine switched from a system of local nonprofit transportation agencies arranging and providing rides to the regional broker system, where the broker arranges rides through a call center. The change was made to comply with federal rules on transparency and accountability. However, states had wide latitude, and were not required to use a regional broker system.

Vermont complied with the federal guidelines but kept intact its system of local nonprofits running the program.

A bill to be debated by the Legislature in January would force Maine to adopt a Vermont-style system.

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

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: @joelawlorph

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