Thursday, December 5, 2013
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Stefanie Nadeau, director of MaineCare Services, said the ride service’s failure rate is still 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent.
Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal
David White, president of Coordinated Transportation Solutions, says complaints to his company have declined from 3,662 in August to 824 so far in October.
Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal
Multiple reports have shown a flawed system and accountability failures. Last week, the Portland Press Herald reported that Coordinated Transportation Solutions vastly underreported the number of complaints it received in the first month of its $28.3 million, one-year contract.
Limiting service complaints is a key requirement of the contracts, but the agreements leave a low bar for compliance. The contracts say complaints must be below 1 percent of the number of patients who are eligible to receive MaineCare rides, rather than 1 percent of those who actually use the system.
About 279,000 people statewide, including 205,000 in Coordinated Transportation Solutions’ service area, are eligible for MaineCare rides, but only about 45,000 use the service. That means the broker could report 2,000 complaints per month and still meet that performance standard.
John Martins, spokesman for the DHHS, said Tuesday that the department drafted the performance standards. In the previous system, he said, the transportation providers billed only for their services and there was no standard for missed rides.
The DHHS switched to the regional program run by ride brokers on Aug. 1. The change addressed federal concerns that the previous system, in which local agencies arranged and provided rides, lacked accountability and transparency.
Despite those concerns, complaints about missed rides under the old system were relatively few. That hasn’t been the case with Coordinated Transportation Solutions or LogistiCare, which has a $5.1 million contract.
While the brokers report progress, health care advocates and ride providers said Tuesday that the data provided doesn’t reflect the reality.
Jessica Maurer, director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging, provided more than two pages of complaints from patients, including people who got rides to medical appointments but no rides home. Some were taken home by taxi. In other cases, hospital employees paid for patients’ rides home.
It’s unclear how Maine will proceed if it does end up canceling contracts. DHHS officials have said they plan to maintain a broker system, in part because of the increased federal contribution the state receives.
Representatives for local nonprofits that were coordinating rides, such as the Portland-based Regional Transportation Program and the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, have said they could revive that system.
Lawmakers may consider another alternative in their next session. Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland, has submitted a bill that would provide “alternative solutions” for MaineCare rides, but the details of the legislation haven’t been made public.
The Legislative Council will vote Wednesday on whether to hear the bill in the session that begins Jan. 7.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:email@example.comTwitter: @stevemistler