Wednesday, April 23, 2014
After remaining relatively quiet during the first three months of the MaineCare rides saga, Democratic leaders are now diving headlong into the controversy.
On Monday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud blasted Gov. Paul LePage and his administration for mismanaging the new brokerage contracts. On Thursday, the day after PPH colleague Joe Lawlor reported that the state failed to obtain a performance bond from Coordinated Transportation Solutions, Senate majority leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, announced that he was submitting a bill to cancel the three broker contracts that are worth more than $40 million.
The bond would have helped cover the state's cost to transition to a new broker if it canceled the CTS contract over ongoing performance issues, including missed rides for disablied MaineCare patients to medical appointments. The CTS contract is worth $28.3 million.
Jackson's bill will pair with a separate measure proposed by Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, which would bring back the old rides system.
“It is unacceptable that for more than three months people have been left stranded waiting for rides to their doctor’s appointments. It’s reckless that taxpayers are on the hook for millions of dollars in services that are not being delivered. And it’s worse that the LePage administration is silent,” said Jackson in a press statement. “We’ve reached a boiling point, there is a crisis and the only comment we get from the Executive Branch is ‘no comment’. That’s not leadership and it’s certainly not problem solving.”
LePage is currently attending a Republican Governors Association conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. The governor has not commented on the rides mess, although Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew has assured lawmakers that her department is doing all it can to hold the brokers accountable.
DHHS has been in the crosshairs a lot lately. This week the agency announced that it was hiring former Pennsylvania welfare chief Gary Alexander to audit the state's Medicaid and welfare benefits system. Alexander is a controversial figure, having purged Pennsylvania's Medicaid roles of 89,000 children before resigning his post earlier this year. His reforms have also come under scrutiny by Pennsylvania Auditor General, which recently found that some policy initiatives have cost the state $7 million.
Earlier this week Michaud's campaign used Alexander's hiring as an appeal for campaign donations. Matt McTighe wrote in the fundraising appeal that Alexander's "specialty is telling conservatives and Tea Party governors like Paul LePage what they want to hear: Fraud and abuse within our social safety net is rampant and access to healthcare must be reduced."
Added MicTighe, "Let's just call it like it is right now: Governor LePage is using taxpayer money to line the pockets of his conservative allies. In return, he gets an "independent" validator to echo his campaign stump speech."
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.