County spins its wheels
Chris Berendt Staff Writer
Just when the Sampson Board of Commissioners thought the topic of Medicaid transportation had been resolved after numerous meetings, two separate bids and a series of deadlocked votes, the secondary provider has submitted a new bid that would undercut the primary vendor — one commissioner said it just wasn’t fair.
The board voted to table a proposed amendment to the contract between the Sampson Department of Social Services and Enroute Transportation Services Inc. for Medicaid transportation. The matter will be further considered by the board in October. However, Commissioner Albert Kirby shared a few choice words about the development and the board directed staff to look into the legal ramifications of what is being proposed.
Enroute owner Ricky Moore submitted a request to amend his contract, reducing his per-mile charge to $1.54 per mile with the same fuel surcharge currently in place, which would be lower than Van-Go’s approved primary contract of $1.85 per mile.
“The Medicaid policy does require the county to use the least expensive means to provide Medicaid transportation,” said county attorney Annette Starling. “If the county is found in violation of the Medicaid policy, there is a risk that charge-backs could be assessed.”
Kirby said he was dumbfounded by more Medicaid transportation talk.
“I’m really somewhat amazed that we’re still dealing with this situation,” said Kirby. “If you look at the entire evolution of how this occurred, it’s just unfair to Van-Go. I don’t know of any other way to put it. Van-Go has bid on this two times. They have won two times. Now, Enroute comes in and says they want to lower (their bid). It’s just not fair.”
Dual contracts, a primary contract for Van-Go Transportation Inc. and a secondary contract for Enroute, were officially approved by the board last month, with a stipulation the secondary contract be “operable only in the event that Van-Go is unable to fulfill its obligations.”
The contracts were to extend from Aug. 1 through June 30, 2015 at those rates, with all transportation referrals routed to the lowest cost provider meeting all N.C. Medicaid Transportation policy requirements. That approval came after a myriad of discussions on the subject that split the board and brought about contentious arguments amongst commissioners and between board members and DSS officials.
In June, the board unanimously voted to award equal contracts to longtime provider Enroute and fledgling Van-Go following a series of 2-2 votes. The equal contracts at $2.10 per mile, which split the difference between Van-Go’s initial low bid of $1.65 per mile and Enroute’s bid of $2.55, was to be in place until Van-Go was able to shoulder the full contract, at which time the new company would do so for its original $1.65 bid.
Enroute did not agree — and neither could the board, rejecting the two bids in favor of rebidding the contract.
In July, Van-Go again submitted the lowest bid, at $1.85 per mile with no fuel surcharge, and Enroute submitted a bid of $1.95 per mile with fuel surcharges of 1 cent per mile for each 5 cents increase in pump price over $2.95, based on monthly average daily prices at Clinton Go-Gas. Dual contracts were inked last month.
However, just weeks after that final approval, Moore on Aug. 21 submitted his reduced bid, which would sizably undercut even Van-Go’s original bid of $1.65 and be a full $1 lower than Enroute’s original bid of $2.55, which was recommended for approval by DSS director Sarah Bradshaw.
Kirby said he knew he was repeating himself, but it was not getting through. He again brought up the familial relationship between Bradshaw and Moore, who is her ex-brother in law, and recapped a series of events he has called “suspicious.”
“I went back the last six years, and they made nearly $6 million,” said Kirby of Enroute. “Six million dollars. And this year comes up, and Van-Go makes a bid, and they under-bid them. They made $6 million and he went up (on his bid), and Ms. Bradshaw basically said it’s OK, we should give it to the highest bidder, because he needs to pay his folks more money, he needs to buy better equipment…”
Kirby said the prospect of dual contracts never came up before this year, and now everything — from discrediting Van-Go, and calling into question their low bid and their capabilities — was being done to ensure Van-Go does not serve as primary provider.
“Mr. Moore, who said he could not do it for $2.10, comes down to $1.95, and they we’re still saying Van-Go can’t do it,” said Kirby. “Van-Go has done it. I’ve been hearing nothing but positive things about Van-Go in the community. They’re doing the routes and they’re doing absolutely fine. So what does Enroute do now? They say we’re going to bid lower. Everybody knows what’s going on in this situation. They just don’t want Enroute to lose this contract, and that’s what it looks like.”
Kirby said he has also been told that Van-Go was not receiving 100 percent of the Medicaid transportation referrals, as mandated by the board. Van-Go representative Charles Boykin concurred with that. DSS accounting specialist Hurmean Beach said, as far as she knew, Van-Go was receiving all referrals. Boykin asked, if that was the case, why was Van-Go receiving referrals with Enroute’s name on them.
Kirby asked that the situation be tabled and further examined, especially in regard to legal ramifications of accepting contract amendments.
“Because on the other hand, I do want to make sure we save taxpayers money,” Kirby remarked. “I’m not an idiot. If we can save taxpayers money, I want to it, at any rate. Van-Go might want to come down lower.”
Commissioner Jefferson Strickland mentioned having an outside entity come in to examine the matter. Board chairman Billy Lockamy said he just wanted to “do things right.” Kirby agreed.
“Somebody needs to come in and make sure we’re not doing anything outside of what is proper,” Kirby said. “This has been a difficult road and, overall, I thought that everything was going well. Why don’t we just table it, let them get the referrals they should get and then we’ll look at it again a month from now?”
Strickland made a motion to table the matter, with further research to be done by outside parties to be determined by the county attorney. In the meantime, Medicaid transportation will be operated in the manner the board has already mandated, the motion stated. The vote was unanimous.
“One of the questions that could be asked is where does it end?” Strickland said. “How many times can (contracts) be amended? I don’t know.”
“If you were to look at the policy, it could never end,” said Kirby. “They could come down penny for penny until they start doing half a cent or three-quarter of a cent.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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