Thousands of low-income Mainers could see there was a problem last August, when Coordinated Transportation Solutions starting arranging rides for MaineCare recipients causing, them to miss doctor’s examinations, physical therapy, cancer treatment and other medical appointments.
But the state Department of Health and Human Services has taken its time holding CTS to account, putting the private company on probation in October and announcing in January that it won’t renew its contracts with CTS when they run out June 30.
So the news this week that CTS was paid an extra $1.2 million in February — and that no DHHS official could explain why — seems to fall into the category of “Here we go again.” It’s shocking that nobody at DHHS seems to be tracking payments to CTS, given that the company has been in the media spotlight for months because of its subpar performance. Legislators should press for answers about the payment discrepancy, and the state should provide them.
From the beginning, complaints flooded in from MaineCare patients about the new system for arranging transportation, including no-show rides, late rides and long hold times for setting up rides. Most of the concern centered on CTS, which has $28.3 million in state contracts, covering all of Maine except for York County and the Bangor area.
But DHHS’ attempts to hold CTS accountable have resulted in mixed messages. At the beginning of this year, the agency said it was allowing its contracts with CTS to expire, while at the same time announcing that the company “would not be precluded” from bidding on new contracts, a top DHHS official said.
Then there’s the more recent revelation that CTS received $3.3 million last month, while in all previous months, it was paid $2.1 million. The reason for this disparity is unclear, though state documents released in December showed the company appeared to ask for additional funding to ease a financial crunch.
Under the new system, however, contractors — not the state — are expected to pick up the tab for any cost overruns. So if the state paid CTS the extra $1.2 million in response to a plea for assistance from the company, DHHS officials are going against their own philosophy and negating one of the advantages of the changed setup.
Mainers already have spent too much on the regional ride brokering system and gotten too little in return. To let this latest report go uninvestigated would be a further betrayal.