Transportation & Housing
Single Brokerage Transit Service System
Work initially proposed for the Transportation & Housing regional plan was compromised by the decision of the Maine Department of Housing and Human Services (DHHS) to transition in 2013 from a system of direct contracting and reimbursement to transit service providers for transport of MaineCare clients, to an external brokerage system with the management firm selected via competitive contract bid.
As a result, rural transit agencies throughout Maine are now getting only a fraction of the per-client reimbursement rate that they used to receive, with the bulk of the reimbursement going to the contracted brokerage firm. The agencies have historically used revenues from MaineCare clients to subsidize underfunded expenses of maintaining rural transit service, and they are operating very close to the break-even point following the loss of this significant funding stream.
Meanwhile, the current brokerage contract awardee, Coordinated Transportation Solutions (CTS), has struggled to provide timely and high-quality service throughout Maine ever since the brokerage opened in October 2013; DHHS has already announced that the current contract will not be renewed in June 2014, but Maine will stick with CTS until a new broker is selected.
Notwithstanding the termination of their contract the company received and extra $1.2 million in February of 2014 while the agencies who formerly provided MaineCare rides continue to lose money and those who need services are extremely dissatisfied.
The chaos and uncertainty surrounding the brokerage system, including complex individual agency contract negotiations with CTS, have significantly disrupted normal public transit operations in Washington County for well over a year. System managers have been preoccupied with brokerage issues and the resulting fiscal impacts on staff and programs; as a result, they have not been able to fully participate in the GROWashington-Aroostook project to the extent that they might have wished.
Until a new brokerage firm is established and all of the existing contracts are renegotiated with the new broker, rural transit agency managers are likely to be more interested in regaining fiscal and operational stability than in engineering change and expanding their services to better promote workforce development.
Back to the Future?
On March 28, 2014, Washington Hancock Community Agency (WHCA) is submitting a detailed bid to the Office of MaineCare Services to become the designated transportation broker serving Hancock and Washington Counties. If awarded this contract would return this brokerage service to an agency that has provided regional MaineCare Non-Emergency Transportation since 1975.
The Washington County Council of Governments supported this application (see lettter from Judy East) in the belief that WHCA has the track record, realtionships, and service dlivery network that could best serve Washington and Hancock County. Provision of brokerage and transportation by WHCA for MaineCare services also provides local/regional employment and is a solid foundation on which to build that additional rural transit services that our region needs to address the cost and distance issues faced by our regional workforce.