Article and photo by Ramona du Houx
Democrats on the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, on March 23rd, endorsed a measure to release funding for critical anti-fraud efforts in the Attorney General’s Office.
But Gov. Paul LePage is against the proven anti-Medicaid fraud measure.
The budget panel split on the proposal with Republicans backing LePage. The Governor has refused to release the existing state matching funds to be used to combat fraud in the Medicaid program. He is using the excuse of his political disputes with the Attorney General.
The AG is ready to approve the funding, once the legislature votes for this bill as it has proven effective to catch Medicaid Fraud in the past. But LePage won't budge in his position, despite the fact this highlights governor's hypocrisy, as he crusaded to get rid of Medicaid fraud during his election campaigns.
“The Medicaid Fraud Unit has recovered millions of dollars and has worked to protect our most vulnerable citizens from abuse, including those at our nursing homes,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, House Chair of the budget panel. “Releasing the funding is vital to the continuation of the program.”
Last year the fraud unit’s work helped uncover an alleged sexual abuse of a patient at Penobscot Nursing Home. According to the Bangor Daily News, a nurse was charged two counts of gross sexual assault and one count of intentionally endangering the welfare of a dependent person, according to court documents filed in Ellsworth. The charges stem from an incident that occurred at Penobscot Nursing Home, according to a complaint filed in court by Detective Jeffrey Wrigley of the health care crimes unit of the Maine Office of the Attorney General.
The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has also recovered over $60.7 million in recent years. It is required by the federal government as part of the Medicaid program.
"It is unbelievable the the Republicans on this committee are putting politics ahead of what works well for the people of Maine,” said Senator Linda Valentino, the Senate Democrat on the panel. “For the past five years, Republicans have made Medicaid fraud their cause but today, they are going to put politics ahead of facts and jeopardize a really effective program."
The proposal will now head to the House and Senate for a vote of the full Legislature.