One of two vendors embroiled in a drawn-out contract dispute for Sampson County’s Medicaid transportation services last year has bowed out, officially requesting termination of its contract.
A letter to Sampson County Department of Social Services and DSS director Sarah Bradshaw from Enroute Transportation Services Inc. president Ricky Moore, dated July 2, states simply “I requesting (sic) termination of Enroute Transportation Services Inc.’s Medicaid Transportation Vendor Contract as of June 30, 2014.”
The Sampson County Board of Commissioners accepted the letter as board information during Monday night’s abbreviated regular meeting.
“He was one of the bidders when we were having the discussion last year,” county manager Ed Causey explained. “We talked about two contracts and he got the second contract. Now, he has just withdrawn.”
Since last summer, a primary contract for Van-Go Transportation Inc. at $1.85 per mile and a secondary contract for Enroute Transportation Inc. at $1.95 per mile have been in effect.
Just weeks after those contracts were inked in August 2013, Moore submitted a reduced bid of $1.54 — $1.62 with fuel surcharges factored in — undercutting even Van-Go’s initial bid of $1.65 and a full $1 lower than Enroute’s initial bid of $2.55 submitted as part of the original bidding process before both contracts were thrown out and the process rebid.
Commissioners split over the issue last summer during a series of hours-long heated talks, with Commissioners Billy Lockamy and Jefferson Strickland favoring Enroute’s experience and saying Van-Go was not quite ready to shoulder the full contract, but could get a piece of the action under a two-contract concept.
Commissioners Albert Kirby and Harry Parker said Van-Go should be given a chance, just as Enroute was 16 years ago by the county, and maintained state law dictated a low bid — nearly $1 per mile less — should be accepted.
In June 2013, during the height of the debate and with the fifth commissioner Jarvis McLamb absent, Moore said he was faced with the prospect of dwindling revenues with the dual contract proposal.
“I’m just not comfortable going into a situation where I would not know how much time I would have to recoup my expenses, much less generate a profit, and at a lower rate,” said Moore, explaining the need for a $2.55 rate. “That’s why I had to decline the amended offer. I maybe would only be in business a month. Even though I have that great concern for these people in trying to make sure they’re looked after and get to their appointments on time, I still can’t afford to jeopardize my future and incur any expenses I may never recover in this whole process. I’ll do whatever I can, but I can’t do it and do bad business at the same time.”
The board ultimately went with Van-Go, offering Enroute a secondary contract.
With Enroute’s low bid received in September, it prompted separate letters by county attorney Joel Starling and Commissioner Albert Kirby to state officials inquiring about the county’s legal footing. The matter was referred to Neal McHenry, assistant Attorney General representing the Division of Medical Assistance.
McHenry stated that the county had fulfilled its obligation and it was not required to accept a lower bid or amend its current contracts, despite the lower bid from Enroute.
“There is no authority to support a contention that a county may or should even consider a subsequent bid after the bidding process is over, so there is no support for a requirement that the county must enter into a new contract every time a provider approaches with a lower rate,” McHenry stated.
McHenry addressed two main questions, including whether the Medicaid manual provision requires the county to amend its contracts and shift primary transportation duties to a provider each time that provider submits a new, lower per mile rate; and whether a lower bid required the county to enter into a new contract with that new bidder.
The answer in both cases was no, McHenry stated.
Sampson’s dual contracts were to extend from Aug. 1 through June 30, 2015 at Van-Go’s $1.85 and Enroute’s $1.95 rate, with all transportation referrals routed to the lowest cost provider meeting all N.C. Medicaid Transportation policy requirements.
“The county is not required to consider a new bid until the contract ends and the county solicits new bids using its bidding process,” McHenry stated.
While feedback from the federal government was sought to back up the Attorney General’s advisory letter — the board, in its most recent Medicaid-related discussions in March deferred action Enroute’s follow-up bid pending that clarification — the primary and secondary contracts have remained in effect.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-249-4616. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.