August 21, 2013

LogistiCare blames missed rides on driver protest

By Joe Lawlor
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Pamela Tardiff cries while telling the story of her frustrations with the new ride scheduling system on Friday in Augusta. Tardiff uses an powered wheelchair and has had trouble getting rides to doctors appointments.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

State officials did not return calls and emails today asking when the complaint numbers would be released.

The call center occupies a former dentist’s office in Kennebunk, where 12 employees take calls and plan routes for patients.

Employees on Wednesday sat in cubicles answering calls in an otherwise quiet room.

A display screen of call wait times at the center showed all zeros, which meant that callers were getting through without delay. If there’s a rush of calls, the calls can be routed to other call centers in other states, Harrison said.

Previously, local nonprofit agencies dispatched and provided the rides to MaineCare residents with few problems, patients have said.

The nonprofits had to lay off employees, although both LogistiCare and CTS hired Maine workers for its call centers.

Harrison said every complaint is important.

“You need data to evaluate effectively,” he said. “We want to know about complaints, because that’s the way we correct the problems.”

Responding to criticisms over the past week about brokers such as LogistiCare having a motive to limit ride service to earn higher profits, Harrison and Linowes dismissed that notion. LogistiCare and CTS receive a flat fee based on the number of transportation patients it serves. Critics say the fewer rides they provide, the more money they make, giving the companies an incentive to turn down patients.

Even so, Harrison said there’s a “moral imperative” and a federal requirement to provide rides to people in need. The state also has numerous performance standards that LogistiCare and CTS must meet.

Harrison said it’s true that some people don’t really need the rides, and it’s part of LogistiCare’s job to weed people out so that the government is not unnecessarily providing service. Harrison said he’s heard stories in other states where people were getting free Medicaid-provided rides to the beach and the casino.

“That’s one way we save states money,” Harrison said. “We get rid of trips that shouldn’t be run.”
Maine has not predicted that the contractors will save the state money.

Still, Linowes said employees care deeply about the patients and provide good service to those in need.

“You have to be good stewards of the taxpayer money and provide high quality levels of service,” Linowes said. “That’s the balance that we hit every day.”

However, Lee said she’s uncomfortable with call center employees from a private company making life-altering decisions for patients.

“Who at LogistiCare is qualified to make those decisions?” Lee said.

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