Wheelchair ride provider agrees to fines

NASHUA – The owners of Care Ride Wheelchair Transportation have agreed to pay more than $40,000 in fines to the state for overcharging the Medicaid program for driving people to and from Medicaid-covered services, the attorney general’s office announced Friday.

Lena Forrester, who for the past decade has owned and operated Care Ride with her husband, Lance, denies any intentional wrongdoing, though she acknowledged that drivers make mistakes.

Care Ride fully cooperated with the investigation, and no court case was filed, according to prosecutor Philip Bradley. The state monitors services such as Care Ride periodically, he said.

The fines involved claims filed during 2002 and 2003 and related to Care Ride’s failure to bill mileage based on the most direct route for transports, and failure to maintain proper documentation.

“We never charged anything we feel we didn’t do,” Lena Forrester said. “We are admitting that documentation of some of these things isn’t as good as it usually is.”

Care Ride experienced a huge growth spurt in 2002 when it was hard to keep up with the community needs, she said. “There were some new drivers who didn’t know how to document properly, so this is where all this came from,” she said.

She said Medicaid owes Care Ride money.

“It’s such a slap in the face to have to go through this and pay all this money to them when they owe us all they do,” Forrester said.

“On the other side of this, Medicaid owes us close to $40,000 in base-rate mileage fees for trips we’ve been performing that they’ve never paid for,” she added.

Forrester said she was threatened into agreeing to pay the fine.

“We have no choice,” she said. “If we don’t pay, then they’ll continue with their threats of researching years and years ago

. . . searching for everything they can find that wasn’t documented as they want it to be.”

Bradley said Care Ride was free to hire a lawyer and contest the matter.

“Her time to complain was probably at the time the state was negotiating with her,” he said. “If she felt she did nothing wrong and owed no money and was owed money . . . she could have hired a lawyer.”

Forrester said Care Ride doesn’t have the resources to do that.

“You just can’t win,” she said. “You just have to agree with them.”

She said the company and the state came to an agreement.

“We have given them evidence to show that we are an honest company and making every effort to prevent any kind of documentation errors in the future,” she said.