Auburn woman struggles as MaineCare ride problems continue

Laurie Thomas had to see her doctor.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Laurie Thomas is helped out of her Auburn apartment by her son, Matt Thomas, left, and family friend Otis Sprague on Friday afternoon after Coordinated Transportation Solutions failed to pick her up for a scheduled ride to a doctor's appointment earlier in the day. "It's such a production to get down the steps, and now I've had to do it twice today," said Thomas, 51, a diabetic and recent amputee.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Laurie Thomas of Auburn is helped into a car by family friend Otis Sprague for a ride to a doctor's appointment Friday. "I'm just tired, just tired of this. It's affecting my health," the 51-year-old diabetic said after Coordinated Transportation Services failed to show up to take her to a scheduled appointment.

The 51-year-old diabetic and recent amputee was battling an infection on one foot and was concerned about a cut on her other leg. She had regular medical appointments and her doctor was taking care of her. She just had to get to him. 

So earlier this week she called Coordinated Transportation Solutions and scheduled a ride to her 11 a.m. appointment. Since Aug. 1, the Connecticut-based company has held a $28.3 million contract with the state to serve as ride broker for MaineCare patients who need transportation.

It hasn't been going well.

On Friday, it didn't go well for Thomas, either.

"I was outside at 10:15, just to make sure that nobody would come early for the appointment," she said. "CTS told me 10:40; I was out there at 10:15. I was out there until 11:15. No ride."

Thomas, who lives in Auburn, said she tried to call CTS at 10:45 a.m. when her ride didn't show, but the representative told her that her ride confirmation number wasn't enough — he needed her MaineCare number, and he couldn't help her without it. That number was in her purse, which she'd accidentally left at a friend's house the night before. She couldn't reach her friend to retrieve her purse.

She went back outside.

By 11:15 a.m., with no ride and her doctor's appointment long gone, Thomas said she called CTS again and demanded to speak to a supervisor. The representative refused, saying she had to have her MaineCare number before anyone at CTS would speak with her.

She said she called the Office of MaineCare Services to get her number, but no representative there picked up. After staying on hold for 32 minutes, she hung up in frustration.

She said she never had such problems prior to CTS.

"At least (Western Maine Transportation) could talk to you," she said. "At least they came if you were out there."

Rides in this area used to be handled by Community Concepts and Western Maine Transportation, agencies that booked rides and provided the transportation. State officials said they had to change that system because the federal government considered it a conflict of interest to have one agency handle requests for transportation and provide rides.

The state contracted with three agencies to broker rides. CTS is now broker for the MaineCare patients in the state's most rural counties, including Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford. It also handles Aroostook, Washington, Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

CTS came under fire as soon as its work began. MaineCare patients flooded the Maine Department of Health and Human Services with complaints about the company. Thousands of riders have said they were stranded, delivered to the wrong place or unable to book a ride at all.

By the beginning of October, CTS call wait times were so long that as many as half of callers hung up. By the beginning of November it was estimated that CTS had missed more than 5,000 rides.

Lawmakers have questioned the company's performance, and some have said the CTS contract should be canceled or changed. The state instituted a corrective action plan for the company.

Last week, DHHS issued a news release in which it said CTS had improved in the past two months but the department would continue to assess the company's performance.

"We are making good progress on the review, but no final determination has been made regarding the contract," the statement said. 

On Thursday, Gov. Paul LePage said it was likely some parts of the CTS contract would be renewed and others wouldn't.

Thomas had a problem with CTS before. About a month ago she missed an appointment with her surgeon when her ride didn't show up.

On Friday, after missing that morning appointment, Thomas called her doctor's office in tears. She needed medical care. The office was able to get her a late afternoon appointment, but it was with a doctor who didn't know her. She scooped it up.

But Thomas, who uses a wheelchair, didn't know how she was going to get there.

Her friends weren't available to give her a ride. A taxi would cost $20 round trip, money she didn't have. For part of the afternoon she seriously considered borrowing money from someone and taking a taxi to a local emergency room — a trip that would cost her just $10 round trip but would end up costing MaineCare dramatically more than her planned office appointment. 

By 3 p.m., an hour before her new appointment, she did what she had been desperate not to do: She called her 18-year-old son at work and asked him to drive her to the doctor.

He left work early, missing an hour of regular time and all of the overtime he'd planned to work that evening.

As the family's sole supporter, it was pay he couldn't afford to lose.

"I counted on that ride," Thomas said. 

Requests for comment were not returned by CTS or the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on Friday.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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Comments

MARY ELLEN DAVIS's picture

Has the SJ reported the deaths caused by CTS incompetence?

2 people have died because of CTS' incompetence. WMTS is ready and willing (and more able) to take over the contract if CTS is dropped but Maine wants to continue to work with these out-of-state idiots. People are losing services and service providers are losing tens of thousands of dollars because of missed appointments. This whole situation is messed up and there is no relief in sight.

KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

There is more to this story

There has got to be a reason why this agency wasn't sent packing as soon as it was revealed that they never bought the performance bond. What's the real reason they are still here?

JOANNE MOORE's picture

The buck stops with you, Lepage!

These pictures say it all. The misery this woman went through, IS going through, is your fault. If you had an ounce of compassion in you, an ounce of empathy, you would call an end to the contract with CTS now. But you won't, will you? You think you are making brownie points with the baggers and the slackers that don't want to pay their fair share of taxes so that the lives of others in need of help will be made as miserable as possible until they just go away. Until they just give up. Then you can brag about all the money you saved the taxpayers you p.o.s.

Well I'm a taxpayer, too. And if my tax dollars are used for sending kids off to war, I want to be sure they also are used to see to it that this woman gets a bus ride to get the medical attention she needs.

If my tax dollars are being spent on your salary, I also want them to be spent on seeing to it that this woman and others like her can be sure that when they call the company you hired their rides will be on time.

Don't even THINK you will be re-elected. These pictures say it all about the way you think of those in need.

If you believe in the hereafter you are going to have one hell of a time squeezing your fat arse through those pearly gates. No effing way. You have just bought yourself a one-way ticket on a down escalator. Bon Voyage.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

LePage is going to be looking like this

on the night he finds out he lost...the first 23 seconds shows Romney and Ann in despair....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rLHxbemvpxY

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Good one, Jerry

Tears in the eyes and all. Why is it the only sympathy these thugs have is for themselves?

Personally, I am hoping for video of LePage crawling out of the Waterville dive, drunk and throwing up. And blood.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Nothing going on here folks

Just keep movin on and don't think about this. Just keep your eyes on the guy who bought a Pepsi or a lottery ticket with his EBT card. People like this lady count for nothing with our present DHHS administrators and the governor. They would have us believe they are truly working hard to fix this but it will take time . Lots of time. NOT !

NORMAND A LEMAY's picture

Same ol' SJ

What do I think of this story? I think it's typical Sun-Journal reportage/editing. It's an interesting story that just...ends right in the middle of things.

Here we have an article dealing with a serious subject. It starts out well. It was engaging, poignant, empathetic, all good qualities. It laid out the problems, including the history behind them. The writing was good. Yup, all stuff you probably learn in second year journalism classes.

It continued on in good fashion. It got us in view of the home stretch, the denouement as it were. The story was reaching it's point of maximum tension when it just...ended, not with a bang, but a whimper -- "Requests for comment were

Same ol' Sun-Journal. Old habits die hard. It clearly begs the question, "Why bother with it in the first place if there's no clear ending?" I guess the Sun-Journal editors quit journalism classes after the second year.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Late bloomer huh

Had you been following the story, you would know that this has been a whole cluster fluck from the time DHHS was put in charge by the hiring of Mary Mayhem who Lepage secondly chose from her only experience being a LOBBYIST for Maine Hospital Association. To her then hiring a 2008 college right wing Heritage policy writer for the Financial directors job that has NONE, nada experience with Medical or Financial backgrounds.

On top of all that the late $925 K report that LePage and the DHHS gave to a right wing one man band FRAUD agency that has failed to produce anything of value on time, in which LePage had previously offed that job of the DHHS to him before the incompetent Mary Mayhew. The whole house of cards is coming down around LePage and his cronyism entourage is being exposed and YOU blame the SJ????????

As we would say in the military, if you cannot keep up with the conversation, take notes...what I think Normand, you are out of touch, big time...or have no problem with incompetence of the highest degree.

Do I recall correctly that

Do I recall correctly that the MHA is actually I favor of the Medicaid expansion that Mayhes and the governor are against? Quelle irony...

Do I recall correctly that

Do I recall correctly that the MHA is actually I favor of the Medicaid expansion that Mayhes and the governor are against? Quelle irony...

Sorry bout that. Site is

Sorry bout that. Site is being flaky I ghess.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

WHEW!

For a moment I thought I was having flash backs with the duplication's like it was Ground Hog Day...

Yeah I wish we could delete

Yeah I wish we could delete dupes. I kept hitting the SAVE on my tablet and nothing happened til the last time.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

I noticed that when you select "Save"

That in some instances after clicking "Save" the working icon seems to spin and never reverts back to the page for the refresh. Well one, I quickly highlight and copy the text and second open another tab in Chrome to SJ and it is posted. For some reason it hangs but it has actually posted, while the first tab is still spinning as if it is still thinking. But for backup at least I have copied the text so as to repost just in case.

Other times once you see the post refresh, by hitting the back button the post-it pages reappears and out of wondering if it did post, you reselect and bam another dup..

Oh well as Forrest Gump would suggest, ShitHappens...

Do I recall correctly that

Do I recall correctly that the MHA is actually I favor of the Medicaid expansion that Mayhes and the governor are against? Quelle irony...

Do I recall correctly that

Do I recall correctly that the MHA is actually I favor of the Medicaid expansion that Mayhes and the governor are against? Quelle irony...

FRANK EARLEY's picture

There are two words.........

There are two words in this article that tells the entire story. That is if you have followed the ongoing saga of DHHS mismanagement.
Those words are "Diabetic" and "Amputee". This woman with these conditions, needed medical treatment. This wasn't a dentist appointment, this wasn't a routine physical, this is life and death. She was denied medical treatment at a time she needed it. That is the whole story. Now for the ending, she eventually ended up having to arrange for a relative to miss work and drive her.
For the informed reader, the story is sadly, old news. This story is about a wrong decisions made by the LePage administration, which put a persons health in jeopardy.
There are hundreds of these stories out there, this new company hired by DHHS, isn't doing what twenty million dollars was supposed to provide. There are some conditions that require prompt attention. Not be put on a waiting list somewhere and forgotten. This is just one of many what I consider corrupt operations in the LePage administration.
What is LePage doing to rectify the situation?, He's putting all his administrations energy into finding ways to prevent twenty four individuals from misusing their EBT Cards. There are dozens of mentally ill inmates in a currently underfunded institution in Augusta, missing twenty million dollars due to federal cuts caused by inactivity of the LePage administration. What is he doing to fix this little mishap? He's just spent a million dollars on a consultation which he hopes will justify his attempt to deny 70,000 men, women and children, medical insurance. I say we start a new story here.
Who's side is LePage on? Just who is he working for? Why is he so against helping the people of Maine. It's obvious he's more interested with impressing the people in Washington.
This is a story that won't end until election day 2014. I just hope the people know what to do, to give this story a happy ending........

DONALD FERLAND's picture

No clear ending? To me it

No clear ending? To me it said it all....an agency hired by DHHS and awarded a lucrative contract did not do what they had agreed to do, it caused a woman to miss an appointment that was clearly needed and not only would that company not speak to the women they would not comment to the media...RESULT...no transparency or accountability. This company's contract needs to be stopped NOW. A diabetic with an infected cut is serious...not only could they lose a leg but they could quite possibly lose their life. Wake up and smell the coffee. This administration does not care about the TRULY needy among us.

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