State will not renew contract with Connecticut ride broker CTS

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.

Sun Journal file photo

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 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."

dhartill@sunjournal.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Comments

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Who's the genius???????

Who's the genius at the federal level, who determined that booking rides and providing the actual transportation, is a conflict of interest/ In case they haven't noticed, every bus company and cab company in the world, books the ride, then provides the transportation.
Just another one of those little governmental quirks where common sense takes a back seat to political ideology................

JOHN PAINTER's picture

The decision to switch to a

The decision to switch to a broker model was entirely a Maine decision and is/was not a federal requirement under the Affordable Care Act, or any other I am aware of. Though Centers for Medicare and Medicaid rules have always required that services it pays for must be effective and efficient, broker model, like managed care can drive down cost though it might end up being completely ineffectual...

Maine DHHS presumably decided to utilize a broker model to help contain the large and growing cost of non emergency medical transportation (NEMT) services. The state has not shared enough information (at least in my opinion) on the actual challenges it sees effecting NEMT, though the writing is probably on the wall that dual eligible people (people on Medicare which does not have a transportation option) are a rapidly growing number utilizing NEMT and as such only the MaineCare (Medicaid) segment of the transportation cost is being paid for while the Medicare covered portions are not. This then becomes a comparable concern to those who argue that when the uninsured access healthcare through an Emergency Department, and can't pay, the cost is then shifted to those who do pay (usually with insurance) and inflates the cost.

Non the less, I think it's prudent to return to the former system with controls in place to help assure MaineCare beneficiaries are going to MaineCare covered services.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Noted in the story itself..........

The Federal Government considered the old method of providing rides, as somehow being a conflict of interest. That is my only source of info on that. I heard this before when this issue first came up. What ever the reason, changing from a nonprofit system that worked very well, as noted by several sources. To a dysfunctional out of state broker system, that is terribly unreliable and expensive, baffles my mind.................

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Where do the feds have cause

Where do the feds have cause to stick their noses in such a situation? They couldn't even set up a working, efficiently functioning web site in 3 years. Community Concepts was doing a fine job. But the way government looks at it, if it ain't broken, keep on fixing it till it is.
Fire CTS NOW and sue them for non-compliance of contract, and give the job back to Community Concepts.

DOLORES GABOURY's picture

If it's not Broke

If something is not broke the State is going to find a way to break it. I have driven for Community Concepts and am now driving for RTP out of Portland and there was nothing wrong with the system the way it was. They talk about conflict of interest, the way it is now, CTS is booking all the rides and giving them all to their people and taxi cabs. The volunteer drivers have people on their manifest to pick up and get there and find out CTS has sent a cab to pick them up. They send the work to RTP to give out to their volunteers and then double book and send a taxi for the same person. How long do you think that 28 million is going to last when they are using it up to send taxi cabs, that have to sit and wait for people that are in appointments, or sending cabs to pick up people that have gone with their scheduled driver. Believe me that is what is happening right now. Now that CTS knows that they are getting the boot in June what do you think is going to happen? It will be interesting to see, believe me it can't be any worst than it has been. (I hope). Now the State says they will take the 5 months left to find a new broker, God help us here we go again. State of Maine, just give the rides back to the agencies that were doing a great job before all this mess and lets get on with helping these people get to their appointments.

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