MaineCare’s non-emergency rides program took another hit Friday as a transportation provider and the contractor that arranges rides in York County announced that they will end their business relationship.

LogistiCare and York County Community Action, which provides at least half of the drivers for LogistiCare, said late Friday afternoon that they will part ways effective Feb. 7.

LogistiCare has a $5.1 million, one-year state contract to arrange MaineCare recipients’ rides to medical appointments in the York County region.

York County Community Action officials said they were losing money, drivers and ridership while working for LogistiCare, an Atlanta-based company that is one of three rides brokers that cover the state.

Since it started Aug. 1, the statewide program has been beset with problems, with thousands of low-income Mainers missing rides to doctor’s offices, cancer therapy, dialysis, mental health counseling and other appointments.

Barbara Crider, executive director of York County Community Action, said despite trying for more than four months, LogistiCare could not solve the many logistical problems in the new system, particularly communication issues in connecting patients, volunteer drivers and LogistiCare.

“We’ve had quite a rocky ride since the inception,” Crider said. “It’s been really, really difficult on our staff and volunteers. We can’t continue on this path.”

Crider said the reimbursement to York County Community Action is too stingy and the agency is losing money. If it stayed with LogistiCare for an entire year, she said, it estimates that revenue from the rides program would be about $2.1 million, 50 percent less than in past years.

According to the state contract, the state pays LogistiCare a flat fee and LogistiCare negotiates separate deals with its subcontractors – transportation providers such as York County Community Action.

Robert Harrison, a LogistiCare vice president who oversees operations in Maine, said reimbursement rates to York County Community Action are more than they were before LogistiCare started in August.

He said the split was caused by the agency’s desire to have almost complete control over operations, which would have reduced LogistiCare’s role by about 80 percent.

“It had everything to do with who would have the responsibility and the authority to manage the program,” Harrison said. “They wanted to go back largely to the way things were before Aug. 1,” when local nonprofits arranged the rides and provided them as well.

Connie Garber, York County Community Action’s transportation supervisor, said the agency offered a list of suggestions to LogistiCare and the state, and would have been willing to negotiate on a number of issues.

She said LogistiCare was unwilling to negotiate.

Maine switched to the regional broker system in August to comply with federal rules for transparency and accountability designed to prevent fraud. The state had wide latitude to devise such a system and could have kept its network of local nonprofits arranging and providing rides.

The Bangor region, where the local nonprofit Penquis still runs the operation, has been largely problem-free, officials have said.

Most of the issues have centered on Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions, which has a $28.3 million contract to serve most of the state. The company is on the equivalent of probation while Maine Department of Health and Human Services decides whether to cancel its contract because of poor performance.

LogistiCare is not in danger of losing its state contract, say state officials, and has markedly improved its service since September.

Although LogistiCare and York County Community Action officials clashed, they agree that the agency provided many drivers for the system.

LogistiCare said York County Community Action drivers have been providing half the rides, while agency officials said it is closer to 90 percent.

Regardless, LogistiCare will have to build a new network of volunteer drivers and nonprofit agencies that will take on vehicles and volunteers, Harrison said.

He said LogistiCare has a dozen agencies that can help and is working diligently to build up the driver network so patients will still get their rides in February.

But Pam Lee, a York County resident whose daughter uses the MaineCare rides program, said York County Community Action is such a major transportation provider that she doubts LogistiCare will be able to fill in the gaps.

York County Community Action provided 15,000 MaineCare rides per month before LogistiCare took over, according to agency officials.

Crider said the number has since nosedived, although the agency didn’t have numbers late Friday afternoon.

“I’m absolutely devastated to hear” about the split, Lee said.

Lee said her daughter’s rides have been late or not shown up many times since Aug. 1, and LogistiCare doesn’t appear to be performing any better in recent months.

“We’ve only had one ride where everything went right,” she said.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: @joelawlorph

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