The LePage administration today again failed to meet with the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and left unanswered major questions around the troubled MaineCare rides program, including more than $5 million in unexplained payments to a failing broker and the Department of Health and Human Services’ plan to manage the upcoming rides broker transition.

“We need the administration to work with us, but we continue to deal with a lack of transparency and real answers,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “Enormous problems continue to plague the rides program and people are understandably anxious about the upcoming transition. We need to resolve these issues so Mainers aren’t suffering because of ongoing mismanagement.”

Rather than sending a representative, DHHS provided meager written responses to pressing questions about the rides program and other important services for Maine’s most vulnerable residents.

“Maine people deserve to know why the administration continues to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on a failed vendor with a miserable performance record,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “For months we have sought to resolve these issues, but at each turn we are stonewalled by the administration. We can’t do it alone and we certainly can’t do it without adequate answers.”

According to documents provided by the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Program Review (OFPR), DHHS has paid CTS an additional $5.5 million on top of its current $2.1 million monthly payments. The two other rides brokers, Logisticare and Penquis, did not receive any additional payments.

The committee directed the Office of Fiscal and Program Review to seek answers from DHHS. Previous queries from the Health and Human Services Committee have not resulted in any response.

“We must ensure that the kind of debacle that took place with system changes last year does not happen again. The LePage administration’s failure to engage is putting vulnerable Mainers at risk and harming the small businesses that serve them,” said Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook, a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.

The vendor transition from CTS’s contract to Logisticare, Penquis, and Waldo Community Action Partners was originally set to take place on July 1. A rides provider has indicated that the date has been pushed back to August, but neither the Appropriations Committee nor the Health and Human Services Committee has received notification of the change from the administration.

Challenges with the rides program go back to August 2013 when the Department of Health and Human Services badly mismanaged the last major change for the rides program. The program serves 45,000 Mainers who depend on it for transportation to appointments such as dialysis and mental health services. The problems included thousands of missed appointments because callers couldn’t get through on the phone to arrange rides or because drivers didn’t show up.

For months, the Legislature has sought answers from the Department of Health and Human Services about the ongoing problems with the MaineCare transportation system.  Earlier this year, the Legislature took up a measure, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, to prevent DHHS from renewing the failed contracts with the present brokers of the current, failed MaineCare rides system. Governor LePage vetoed the measure and legislative Republicans sustained the veto.

The next meeting of the Appropriations Committee is scheduled for August 19 at 10 a.m.

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