December 5, 2013

Maine DHHS chief: Medicaid expansion 'unsustainable'

Commissioner Mary Mayhew’s visit comes amid continuing controversies at her agency.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, speaks at the Portland Community Chamber’s Eggs ’N Issues breakfast at Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland Wednesday.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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On Tuesday, Democratic Senate President Justin Alfond joined city leaders and advocates for the poor to protest the plan, calling it the governor’s latest move in his “war on the poor.”

After her speech Wednesday, Mayhew said Alfond’s comment was “appalling,” and the governor is committed to ending “generational poverty” and building a sustainable welfare system that ensures the most needy get services.

During a radio interview with WGAN on Wednesday morning, she defended LePage’s welfare policies, saying his “heart is in the right place.”

She said the Portland office move is designed to consolidate public assistance with services of the Department of Labor, to help the needy get off public assistance and into employment. The administration says the move would save the state about $14 million.

The state’s lease on Marginal Way expires Jan. 31, 2015. The state is still negotiating the terms of a 20-year lease with ELC Management Inc., which would build the office building near the airport. The parcel is undeveloped, leaving questions about whether the building would be ready in time for the move.

Mayhew would not answer questions about whether the timetable is realistic, referring them to the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which oversaw the site selection.

WELFARE STUDY OFF TO SLOW START

After her speech, Mayhew also addressed the administration’s decision to sign a $925,000 contract for a consultant to evaluate Maine’s Medicaid and welfare programs. Critics say the evaluation is designed to validate proposals that the LePage administration embraces. Gary Alexander, the principal of the consulting group, has come under fire for implementing reforms while he was the welfare chief in Pennsylvania that an auditor general’s report found cost taxpayers $8 million more than necessary.

The first installment of the Maine study, an analysis of Medicaid expansion, was due Dec. 1. DHHS officials confirmed Monday that the Alexander Group had not yet delivered its analysis. Mayhew hinted Wednesday that the deadline was missed partially because the state had not provided all the information needed for the analysis. She said she hopes the review will be delivered within the “next week or so.”

NO ANSWERS ON RIDES PROGRAM

Mayhew also was asked about the DHHS’ $28.3 million contract with a Connecticut company to arrange rides for Medicaid patients.

Coordinated Transportation Solutions is at the center of a controversy over a system that has left thousands of patients without rides since it started Aug. 1.

DHHS officials told CTS that it had until Dec. 1 to submit a corrective action plan and make improvements.

Mayhew twice declined to answer whether the company has a deadline to show it is acting on that improvement plan.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:smis

tler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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