Thursday, April 24, 2014
BY JOE LAWLOR
Portland Press Herald
The state is on the brink of canceling a contract with a company it hired for $28.3 million in taxpayer funds to arrange medical appointments for thousands of MaineCare patients, according to a memo released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services.
However, the agency is also giving the company two additional months to fix the problems.
Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions -- which serves six of eight transportation regions in the state -- has been put on the equivalent of probation for failing to provide adequate services, according to a Sept. 30 memo signed by Stephanie Nadeau, DHHS director of MaineCare services.
The rides system has been in turmoil since the state switched from a system in which local nonprofits arranged the rides to a new system in which regional brokers connect patients with the transportation providers. DHHS made the change to comply with federal rules requiring more accountability and transparency.
Thousands of patients have missed rides to doctor's appointments, therapies, counseling and other medical services.
CTS must submit a "corrective action" report to the state by Monday and make "significant measurable" improvement by Dec. 1 or the company could lose its contract, according to Nadeau. The state also could recover money set aside by CTS in a performance bond for failing to deliver services, the memo said.
"CTS has failed in its service to MaineCare members by: failing to secure an adequate transportation network, failing to provide prompt and competent service at its call center. As a result, thousands of MaineCare members have missed, or been late, for appointments and, in some instances, gone without necessary medical services, among other things. CTS's performance failures also have a ripple effect throughout the state, causing caretakers to miss work and causing medical providers to lose revenue," Nadeau's memo said.
Nadeau also wrote to the two other ride providers, LogistiCare for the York County region and Penquis Community Action for Bangor. While mentioning issues that need to be improved, the other two contractors were not put on probation and were not threatened with having their contracts revoked.
The rides are given to MaineCare patients who otherwise don't have access to transportation, and is a service required by the federal government.
DHHS has refused multiple requests by the Portland Press Herald to release complaint numbers. However, the Sept. 30 memo says that since Aug. 1, CTS "has received over 3,300 complaints from members, and this does not include the numerous complaints received separately by the Department."
Nadeau's memo to CTS belies the largely upbeat tone of an official memo DHHS submitted Wednesday to the Legislature's Appropriations Committee.
In the memo, released by the office of DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, CTS was lauded for its performance in September "demonstrating improvement in problem areas they saw in August."
The weekly average of missed trips by CTS patients declined from 824 in August to 394 in September, according to Mayhew's memo. CTS has missed providing rides for more than 4,000 patients through mid-September, out of about 160,000 trips scheduled, the memo said.
"We have made significant progress," CTS President David White told the Press Herald in an interview Wednesday. "It's been a very significant improvement. We are in a very different place than we were in August."
White also pointed out that in the state-released memo, the average time people calling the center spent on hold has decreased from more than 7 minutes to about 3 1/2 minutes.
But Nadeau, the MaineCare program official, wrote that call wait times are still not adequate, and that the contract requires average call wait times to be less than a minute.
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