ROCKLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing bids from ten businesses and non-profit agencies that want to take over all or part of the state's troubled rides program for Medicaid patients.
The current system of "ride brokers" began last August, and resulted in a deluge of complaints from clients about poor service. The majority of those complaints focused on the largest ride broker: Consolidated Transportation Services, generally known as CTS. Now, despite the problematic history in Maine, CTS is one of the bidders for a new contract to provide ride broker services statewide.
For some of the companies actually providing the rides, however, the more immediate challenge has been getting CTS to pay on time. The owners of Schooner Bay Taxi in Rockland say both the April payments from CTS were late. The taxi company says CTS had been paying every two weeks by direct deposit, with no problem. But company President Chris Merritt says that starting this month, the payments have been late.
The first April payment was six days late, the second payment more than four days late. Merritt says that delay may seem minor, but the taxi company has already paid its drivers and needs to meet other expenses as well. He says CTS gave no warning to him or other ride providers that the payments would be delayed. He says the broker blamed the first late payment on the state, claiming DHHS had not paid them.
However, DHHS officials told NEWS CENTER at that time all of their payments to ride brokers were up to date.
A CTS spokeswoman tells NEWS CENTER that the payment delays this month have been caused by "internal problems", but would not specify the problems. She said all payments had been made as of Tuesday, and Schooner Bay Taxi confirmed it had finally received the payment. CTS said in a written statement "this will no longer be a problem moving forward, and we apologize for the inconvenience".
The payment problem will not deter the taxi company from continuing to offer rides to Medicaid patients. Merritt says the program allowed his company to hire 11 more drivers and add five more cabs. He says he has already confirmed with five of the bidders he will work with them if they win contracts for the coming year.
Maine DHHS has said it will award new contracts in time for them to begin service on July 1.