Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Pivot: By now most have probably learned that the Portland Press Herald inadvertently received emails of high level officials at the Department of Health and Human Services discussing its pivot from the a heavily criticized taxpayer funded Medicaid expansion study. However, the actual correspondence is now embedded in the story for those who are interested in reading it.
A couple things:
1. I've been asked several times how the newspaper could have received the chain of emails. Some have wondered if the emails were leaked on purpose. Highly doubtful. The emails were sent to a PPH reporter that infrequently interacts with the agency. The guess is that the emails were mistakenly forwarded because of the auto-fill feature in Microsoft Outlook, which is the email client that the state uses.
2. The emails show that the department is trying to figure out a way to message its Medicaid expansion opposition while downplaying the embattled Alexander Group study. But one didn't need those emails to notice this shift in strategy. There have been several occasions where the administration has cited numbers from the study without mentioning the Alexander report as a source. This happened last week while DHHS chief Mary Mayhew was stumping for Gov. Paul LePage at the York County Republican Committee.
* The governor's office just re-sent a release in which it refers to the Alexander Group Medicaid expansion study as "The State of Maine Medicaid Expansion Feasibility Study."
Economic plan: Expect an advisory later Tuesday from Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud about the unveiling of his economic plan. Michaud, who is taking on LePage and independent Eliot Cutler, is expected to present his plan Wednesday morning in Portland. Details to follow.
Cutler is in Bangor speaking at the Tuesday Forum.
Paper over: Interesting piece in the Washington Post about Consumers for Paper Options, a group attempting to slow the federal government's transition from paper to digital applications, forms and publications.
As the Post points out, this aggressive lobbying group is basically the paper industry. Michaud gets a mention in the piece:
"Late last year, Consumers for Paper Options scored another victory when Rep. Michael H. Michaud (D-Maine), working with the American Forest and Paper Association, used his influence to have language removed from a pharmaceutical bill that would have ended the practice of printing prescription information and inserting it into drug packages, instead requiring that it be posted online. The Food and Drug Administration has been pressing for the change, which the agency says would save money and ensure the information is up to date."
The story doesn't note that Michaud has strong ties to the paper industry. He worked at Great Northern Paper Mill in East Millinocket.
Confirmed: The state Senate just unanimously confirmed the governor's new education commissioner. Jim Rier. Rier replaces Steve Bowen, who stepped down last fall.
Defended: The newly appointed attorneys defending the Maine Center for Disease Control in a whistleblower case took to the Sun Journal in Lewiston opinion page Tuesday to defend its letter asking the Government Oversight Committee to halt its probe into allegations that employees were asked to destroy documents used to justify $4 million in health grants.
Basically, the attorneys are arguing that the GOC probe could interfere with the court case. They concluded their piece with this: "There are two sides to every story — including this one — and the department looks forward to its opportunity to present the actual facts in this case in the appropriate forum, an impartial court of law."
The GOC will meet Friday to discuss whether it will subpoena the CDC officials.
Nonpolitical item: What's better, the stories, photos and tweets of Sochi's incomplete Potemkin village? Or the spectacular crashes, spills and falls of the Olympics?
It's a tough call, but here's a compilation that NBC put together dubbed "Sochi's batter bodies of snow and ice."
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.