PRESQUE ISLE – Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that he wants to more than double the number of fraud investigators in the state to crack down on people who abuse the benefits provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The last administration did not want to prosecute fraud,” he said during a town hall meeting. “We do.”

LePage said there are 11 fraud investigators across the state now, but he thinks there should be two per county — which would total 32. The comments came as LePage and members of his Cabinet answered questions from an audience of more than 150 people at the University of Maine at Presque Isle as part of his Capitol for a Day tour.

Before the session, LePage answered questions from the local media, including an inquiry into four firings at DHHS that were announced earlier in the day. The department said in a news release that four “political appointees” from previous administrations had been dismissed.

When asked if the department was being restructured, LePage said, “Absolutely.”

“The state of Maine has to change its culture,” he said. “If you want to change, we will work with you. If you don’t want to change, sayonara.”

On the topic of health care, LePage took questions at the town hall from those concerned about a new state law that makes significant changes to health insurance regulations. One woman said she was worried that she would have to travel to see a physician, and another said she thought people in rural areas would have to pay more than people in southern Maine.

LePage said the changes will mean cheaper rates for people who are younger, but that other attempts to lower rates will take longer. When the second woman disagreed with the governor, he responded by saying: “It’s not a bunch of horse (expletive), ma’am, I’m sorry.”

One questioner wanted to know if the state was going to put up more fencing to keep deer and moose off the roads. Chandler Woodcock, commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said he’s working with the Department of Transportation on better signs to warn motorists, and that fencing isn’t as effective as it may seem.

“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “It herds deer into another area.”

A man wanted to know when the state was going to get rid of the Land Use Regulation Commission, which controls development on 10 million acres in northern Maine.

LePage said that in January, he thought everyone in Maine wanted to get rid of it, too. But the Legislature has since set up a task force to change the process.

“It will not be in the hands of the state,” he said. “It’s going to go back likely to the counties.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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