AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Department of Health and Human Services says the MaineCare rides mess is improving, but some clients and drivers say they don't see it.
Last week, we told you about the new system the state's using for disabled Mainers to get rides to their needed services. The state adopted that new system to comply with federal regulations.
But in its first week, the broker system resulted in dozens of people complaining about missed rides, double booked rides, even some little kids being dropped off at the wrong house.
Pam Lee, whose daughter missed rides during the first week, asked families to call her if they're having trouble. She says her daughter's now being well taken care of, but that's not what she's heard from other families, who tell her missed rides and double booked rides are still a huge problem.
Drivers Rita Roux and Carol Ojea have each been driving clients for close to 20 years. They say they've never experienced problems like they've seen these past two weeks. They've showed up to the same houses as other drivers, and heard from long-time clients, completely distraught by the confusion of not knowing whether or when their ride will show up.
Roux said, "Put it back. Please, put it back. The system was working. The community action system across the state was working well. And having a broker that lacks the compassion for the client is hurting the client."
Stefanie Nadeau, the Director of MaineCare services for DHHS, said she doesn't think the system itself is the problem. "We believe that the transportation brokerage system is the right model," she said. "What we need to evaluate is do we have the right brokers in place to meet the needs and the demands for the transportation in the state of Maine."
Nadeau says the state is doing a lot of number crunching with preliminary data right now, trying to figure out the scope of this problem. She said there are definitely still lots of complaints coming in, and it's clear that things are not where they should be.
However, she said there are also signs of improvement. For instance, transportation providers are accepting more of the rides sent to them by the brokers, so that may mean fewer cancellations. She also says the brokers have brought on additional staff at call centers to reduce wait times and the numbers of people who give up calling altogether.
Nadeau said, "I think it's important to understand, we haven't let this go for two weeks with no sense of urgency. We've been conveying to the brokers: what are they doing, what are they going to do to resolve these issues."
Broker Coordinated Transportation Services did not respond to our request for an interview. Logisticare referred us back to the Department of Health and Human Services.