Maine's Department of Health and Human Services has selected new brokers to run the state's MaineCare ride program starting July 1. The program was riddled with problems last year under the Connecticut-based broker Coordinated Transportation Solutions. That company lost its bid for the next contract year, but another out-of-state broker, LogistiCare, won the majority of the new contracts. As Patty Wight reports, some advocacy groups are concerned problems will continue under LogistiCare.
Atlanta-based LogistiCare currently brokers rides in York County for the MaineCare ride program, which provides non-emergency transportation to medical appointments. But as of July 1, the company will be responsible for four of the state's six regions, which cover counties from Aroostook to Washington to Androscoggin.
"It's an exciting opportunity, and we look forward to doing there what we've been able to successfully do in Region 8, which is the York County region," says LogistiCare senior vice president of operations, Robert Harrison.
But not everyone in Maine would call LogistiCare's experience in the state a success.
"We have concerns that LogistiCare was chosen to handle such a significant part of the state," says Sara Gagne Holmes, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners.
She says a number of complaints were lodged against LogistiCare when the company first began brokering rides last August. Among those complaints: That it caused some clients be late to appointments or miss them all together.
Gagne Holmes says there are lingering issues.
"Just knowing that some of the more experienced transportation agencies that had been providing the services prior to LogistiCare coming onto the scene felt that they couldn't work with LogistiCare," she says, "so they stopped being one of the providers of rides."
That agency is York County Community Action. Rick McCarthy is a consultant for the Maine Community Action Association.
"What I worry about is that Maine has had a very strong community transportation system where one provider takes revenue from a variety of source,s including MaineCare transportation, to share the needs of everybody in their region, and what's happened in York now is that's broken up," McCarthy says. "So LogisitaCare has the MaineCare money, and York is doing other things. And I worry that that might get replicated in other regioons of the state as LogistiCare expands."
Democratic Sen. Colleen Lachowicz says she was surprised that DHHS awarded so many contracts to a company that has had past perfomance problems. Lachowicz was co-sponsor of a bill that was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage, which sought to replace out-of-state MaineCare ride contractors with local non-profits.
"We're spending millions of dollars on these contract s- millions of taxpayer dollars," Lahowicz says. "And I think that taxpayers need to get their money's worth, and I think MaineCare members deserve a level of service that they haven't seen."
Two of the state's contracts were awarded to local community action programs: Penquis Community Action Program will serve the Bangor and Augusta region, and Waldo Community Action will serve Lincoln, Knox, Waldo and Sagadahoc counties.
Waldo Community Action Executive Director Keith Small says his organization provided rides under Connecticut-based company Coordinated Transportation Solutions. But under the new contract, it will also broker rides.
"One thing that will help us is that our provider side and our brokerage side of this operation will have the same software," Small says. "A lot of what caused us difficulties last year is our software with Coordinated Transportation Solutions software had several hiccups along the way."
The contracts awarded by DHHS can be appealed until May 8. Requests for comment from Republican lawmakers and DHHS were not returned by airtime.