AUGUSTA — The Government Oversight Committee voted today to authorize a rapid response investigation into the Department of Health and Human Services.

Specifically, the panel voted to have the state government watchdog office find out why lawmakers weren’t told sooner about benefits that continued to be paid for 19,000 people on MaineCare even though they were no longer eligible.

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Since then, another 5,300 people have been found to have erroneously received benefits in recent months.

Lawmakers didn’t know about the incorrect payments while working on the state’s budget.

Sen. Joe Brannigan, D-Portland, requested the investigation. Rep. Chuck Kruger, D-Thomaston, said lawmakers need to be reassured that the information they are getting from the department is accurate.

“A breach of trust has happened,” he said. “What I want to see come of this committee’s work is to heal that breach.”

The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability will likely need until July to complete the investigation. Lawmakers may also decide to launch a more thorough investigation into continued problems with billing practices at the agency and communications with MaineCare providers and clients.