Legislators had a dramatic demonstration Wednesday of the state’s new transportation system for MaineCare clients.

Rep. Matt Peterson, D-Rumford, picked up his cell phone during a legislative committee hearing and dialed the number provided to some MaineCare recipients.

As Peterson held his cell phone to the microphone, the number rang once and a recorded voice said, “I’m sorry for any inconvenience. Goodbye.”

The recorded voice might as well be a spokesman for the company, Coordinated Transportation Systems, because “sorry” and “inconvenient” sum up the company’s performance so far.

But CTS’s inability to match drivers with riders has also cost medical and mental health providers thousands of dollars.

Thomas McAdam, CEO of Kennebec Behavioral Health, recently told the Kennebec Journal his company lost $25,000 during the first month of the new transportation operation due to broken appointments.


An experienced driver, meanwhile, recently told the Sun Journal CTS often provides incorrect information or directions.

In one case, he arrived at a home to find the client had canceled the day before. In another instance, he was told to take a child from an appointment to a school that had closed for the day.

Too many clients are left waiting or stranded when scheduled rides fail to materialize.

This change in the way Maine provides rides originated in a law passed eight years ago, the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act.

Maine was required by that law to prohibit agencies that provide services from arranging rides, something Congress saw as a conflict of interest.

So, Maine finally got around to implementing the new rules Aug. 8 by dividing the state into eight sectors and seeking bids.


CTS, based in Connecticut, won six of those contracts and now provides approximately 29,000 of the 35,000 weekly MaineCare rides in Maine, including those in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

It’s a big job, and it’s been a rocky transition with angry clients and drivers flooding their legislators and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services with complaints.

On the plus side, the system seems to be improving and the number of complaints is slowly declining. Some people had complained of spending nearly an hour on hold trying to reach CTS.

The Sun Journal made three calls to the number to arrange rides on Thursday, and the phone was answered on the first ring each time. It was the number provided on CTS’s website, while Petersen called a number on a CTS brochure.

On the other hand, the state doesn’t have many options other than to simply implore CTS to improve its performance.

DHHS could end the contract, but we would still be out of compliance with federal rules.


The contract requires the state to pay CTS $28.3 million in monthly installments over the course of the next year.

Hindsight is, well, hindsight, and where would editorial writers be without it?

Two errors have been made here:

First, any contract of this type should come with incremental penalties for partial failures to perform.

In this case, if CTS muffed 10 percent of the required rides one month, it should lose 10 percent of its next payment.

That would be a powerful incentive to improve.


Second, never jump into a massive change like this without requiring the vendor to prove its capacity to fulfill.

We probably wouldn’t even be talking about this problem had DHHS required the company to run its system successfully in one region before gradually moving into the other six.

For its part, DHHS simply says the vendor has failed to perform.

Indeed. But DHHS could have done more, it seems, to insulate Maine’s Medicare clients from that possibility.

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