The state's Office of MaineCare Services plans to sever ties with a Connecticut company hired to broker car rides for MaineCare patients, following complaints that the company failed to deliver on thousands of rides.
The company, Coordinated Transportation Solutions, signed a $28.3 million contract with the state last year and began operating Aug. 1.
Almost immediately, 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 places or unable to book rides.
On Thursday, the state announced the contract with CTS would not be renewed when it expires on June 30.
The state plans to use the next five months to find new brokers and will continue to watch CTS, according to a release from DHHS.
"We remain committed to the brokerage model and look forward to a successful transition to best serve MaineCare members," said Stefanie Nadeau, director of the Office of MaineCare Services.
State officials changed the previous system because the federal government considered it a conflict of interest to have one agency handle requests for transportation and provide rides.
Agencies such as Community Concepts had traditionally done both jobs. Last summer, the charity's 220 drivers completed an average of 1,300 trips per day.
Once CTS began operating, drivers still volunteered for Community Concepts, which works throughout Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. However, CTS took the calls from people needing rides and scheduled the drivers.
By the beginning of October, wait times for people calling for rides 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.
In a release of its own, CTS said Thursday it has been improving.
Since August, the company has scheduled 200,000 trips each month across its portion of the state, which includes Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. It also handles Aroostook, Washington, Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland, Kennebec and Somerset counties.
Call volume has stabilized and measurements for complaints, payment processing and service levels have been "in contractual compliance for three consecutive months," CTS said. "This includes a rate of complaints at less than 1 percent, average wait times of 14 seconds before a call is answered and abandoned calls at just 2 percent of all calls into the call center."
The Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee took public testimony Thursday on two measures introduced in light of problems in the current program that provides rides to appointments for MaineCare patients.
State Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, is backing a bill that would replace the current transportation system with another system based on the one Vermont uses.
Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash has introduced a measure that would cancel the state's contracts with transportation brokers.
Community Concepts CEO Mike Burke said he hopes an alternative can be found that delivers the same quality of service that existed prior to the change.
"It's been very frustrating for us working with CTS," Burke said. "We're really looking at this as an opportunity to get the transportation program back to where it was."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.