|1/16/2014 9:14:00 AM|
Eye on Augusta: DHHS Will Not Renew Contract with Controversial Ride Broker, Gov. Signs GMO Labeling Law
by Andy OBrienThe Office of MaineCare services has decided not to renew its contracts with Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions (CTS), which is being paid to serve as dispatcher for non-emergency rides to medical appointments, when the contracts expire on June 30. The new brokering system, funded through the state's Medicaid program for low-income residents, has been plagued with widespread communication and software glitches, preventing residents across Maine from getting to medical appointments.
"We remain committed to the brokerage model and look forward to a successful transition to best serve MaineCare members," said Stefanie Nadeau, Director of the Office of MaineCare Services at Maine's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in a statement announcing that the contract would not be renewed.
After the controversial new system was implemented on August 1, local ride providers were flooded with complaints of missed rides, wrong information provided to drivers, and patients unable to reach a dispatcher. Since then, ridership has plummeted, particularly for patients in regions covered by CTS - which includes Waldo, Knox and Lincoln counties. While the contract with CTS required a fixed monthly rate to be paid to the broker for services, in December documents revealed that CTS was asking for more money, despite the ineptitude the company has consistently demonstrated in brokering the MaineCare ride program. The documents also revealed that the broker had begun hiring more expensive taxis to provide rides that previously had been given by volunteers. CTS also failed to secure performance bonds, as required in their contract, to protect the financial liability of the state.
Prior to the changes, the scheduling of rides was handled in-house by staff at the local agencies that also provide the rides, but, according to DHHS, the change was made to comply with rules created by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that required a separation between agencies doing the dispatching and those providing the rides, in order to prevent conflicts of interest. CMS presented states with four options, including the current brokerage model that was selected by DHHS.
Democrats have been extremely critical of the contracts and on January 9 presented two bills to the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee that would cancel the contracts. One of the bills, sponsored by Senator Colleen Lachowicz of Waterville, would create a brokering system similar to Vermont's, which kept its existing non-profit system while still complying with the new federal rules. Vermont has reportedly been spared the kind of problems Maine has encountered.
News of the decision to not renew the contract did not satisfy Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook). "I'm more concerned than ever now that CTS is a lame-duck contractor," said Jackson in a statement. "Now that they know they won't be getting a new contract, they have no incentive to get their act together. They've mismanaged this program for five months, and unless we cancel their contract, they will have another six months to continue their flawed service."
A spokesman for MaineCare Services said the LePage administration is "exploring all options" for covering the six regions in the state currently covered by CTS. CTS covers all of the state except York County, which is handled by LePage donor LogistiCare Solutions.
"LogistiCare, as well as other interested entities that can meet the required contractual metrics, will be considered for this decision," said Sarah Grant, the Director of Program Management and Communications at the Office of MaineCare Services. "As such, if there are local provider agencies that can meet the criteria for our brokerage model, they would be considered, as well."
GMO Labeling Measure Becomes Law
Gov. LePage has made good on his promise to sign LD 718, An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers' Right to Know About Genetically Engineered Food, sponsored by Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington). Maine is now the second state to enact a law requiring the labeling of foods containing GMOs, but the law will not take effect until five contiguous New England states pass a similar law. So far, only Connecticut has passed such a law, while labeling legislation was shot down in New Hampshire amid heavy lobbying from agribusiness. The USDA estimates that around 70 percent of processed foods in supermarkets contain GMOs.
Article Comment Submission Form