Maine DHHS transparency bill fighting fraud vetoed by LePage

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

April 23rd, 2014 

Maine State Capitol, photo by Ramona du Houx

The Legislature sent Governor LePage a bill that would require Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services(DHSS) to be more transparent and accountable to Maine citizens but vetoed it.

“I sponsored this bill, L.D. 1829, because the fight against fraud and abuse in our public programs needs to be one of the highest priorities. Part of the problem is that we aren’t working from a common set of facts that let us know what the DHHS is doing well and where it needs to improve,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, who serves on the Health and Human Services Committee. He is also a health care executive whose background is in the management of state Medicaid agencies.

The measure would have required the DHHS to give an annual accounting of all its efforts to fight fraud, waste and abuse in MaineCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (cash assistance) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp assistance): what’s working and what isn’t, what the DHHS is doing to fight crime and what it is doing on the front end to prevent fraud.

“These programs are the backbone of anti-poverty initiatives designed to get people on their feet and back to work. As a state legislator, I need to know this information before I decide whether to spend more or whether to divert existing resources to something more effective,” said Gatttine.

The DHHS and many Republicans lawmakers opposed the bill claiming that it would take too and resources to provide this basic information to the Legislature and the people of Maine.

“That’s not true, and it’s not an answer that Mainers should accept,” said Gattine. “We have a right to demand openness and accountability from the LePage administration, especially from the DHHS, an agency that accounts for such a large amount of state spending.”

L.D. 1829 will be sent back to lawmakers to try and override LePage’s veto.