April 5, 2012

MaineCare computer glitch grows

About 5,300 ineligible people received MaineCare benefits between Jan. 2 and March 10, a new report says.

From wire and staff reports

AUGUSTA — A new estimate of how many ineligible people received MaineCare benefits due to a computer glitch adds more than 5,000 beneficiaries to the previous count.

The state Department of Health and Human Services originally estimated that the computer error led the state's Medicaid program, known as MaineCare, to continue covering up to 19,000 beneficiaries after they lost eligibility at the end of last year.

The Bangor Daily News says Thursday that a report by a working group looking into the bad payments found an additional 5,300 people who mistakenly received coverage from Jan. 2 to March 10 of this year.

The working group is expected to brief the Legislature's Appropriations Committee on Friday. Meanwhile, officials are trying to come up with a figure on how much the error will cost.

Beneficiaries can cycle on and off MaineCare as their personal circumstances change, such as getting a pay raise or signing up for private insurance.

In cases where these patients went to the hospital or used other medical services, MaineCare erroneously picked up the bill, according to the Daily News. MaineCare would pay the providers, even when it wasn't supposed to.

The problem has led to even deeper partisan issues in Augusta. Democrats have called for a DHHS investigation, saying Mayhew and other adminstration officials covered up the problem while the Legislature was considering budget cuts earlier this year.

The administration knew the numbers they were providing were flawed and yet never mentioned the problem, Democrats said.

Republicans have defended Mayhew, noting that the MaineCare computer problems were passed on to the LePage administration after plaguing the administration of Democratic Gov. John Baldacci.

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