January 15

Bill Nemitz: LePage burned by own report on MaineCare

(Continued from page 1)

My highlight moment from the hour-plus hearing came during the question-and-answer session, when Rep. Ann Dorney, D-Norridgewock, decried the dearth of data in the report showing how expanding MaineCare to those who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level “might benefit the state, actually give us cost savings.”

Responded Randolph with a remarkably straight face, “We didn’t want to necessarily, if you will, make that report more complex than necessary.”

Of course they didn’t. It’s OK to bend over backward projecting poverty rates that have no roots in reality. But break a sweat showing how expanding MaineCare improves public health, which leads to higher workplace productivity, sharp declines in expensive emergency-room care and a host of other social and economic benefits? Who does that?

Real consultants who come in with no prescribed agenda, that’s who. Consultants with actual credentials, not resumes that read like a slow-moving train wreck.

(See: “Maine taxpayers should be wary of Alexander Group’s $1M contract,” by Eugene DePasquale. He’s the auditor general of Pennsylvania, where Alexander, in just two years as secretary of public welfare, cut 89,000 kids from the state’s health-care programs but cost taxpayers $7 million by botching a home care program.

But it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to realize that these guys aren’t real consultants. Just listen to what Randolph, who boasted to the committee that he’s taught economics at an unnamed community college for 17 years, had to say when pressed later by the media to explain how he came up with those eye-popping poverty projections.

“It’s a technical answer,” Randolph replied. “We had a team that included an actuary, we had a CPA, we had a former chief financial officer who ran a Medicaid program and we went about a task to identify those numbers that are real ... We spent a considerable amount of time pooling the data in a way that would reflect a true trend. And we used census data mostly for our report. And also what we did was we looked at the business cycle ... and we identified the peaks along the cycles and we pooled the data for those peaks and what that would do is that would eliminate any impact of a recession ...”

A technical answer? How about pure, unadulterated, self-serving gibberish? How about faxing this guy’s musings to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz the next time the Texas tea-partier needs fodder for a filibuster?

Perhaps the saddest part of this whole saga is that it’s only the beginning. Beyond its well-cooked book on MaineCare expansion, the Alexander Group’s sweetheart deal with the LePage administration calls for four more “deliverables” ranging from a “blueprint” for Maine’s welfare system to a “global reform” of MaineCare to an “enhancement” of Maine’s welfare-to-work program. And oh yes, they’re also going to come up with new ways to root out “fraud, waste and abuse in the system.”

It’s nothing short of music to the ears of Cutler and, for that matter, Michaud.

LePage, after all, has had nearly a full term to solve these and Lord knows how many other “problems” he’s long complained are destroying this state.

Yet even now, all the Big Guy can do is make them sound worse.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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