The Oct. 3 editorial, “Our View: Still paying the bills for LePage’s tough talk,” demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the legal issues on Riverview’s decertification.

Gov. Mills’ decision to drop a federal lawsuit – and fork over tens of millions of Maine taxpayer dollars to federal bureaucrats for failing to follow their own rules – is apparently what the Portland Press Herald calls “valuable” and “cooperative talk.”

In this case, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ruled Maine could not use the same staff at Riverview Psychiatric Center for both forensic patients and the general population, so sent me a bill for $51 million.

This was quite disturbing since CMS had treated other states’ psychiatric facilities exactly the opposite of how they handled Riverview.

As a result of the federal bureaucrats’ decision, we proposed housing the forensic patients in a new unit with a private entrance in Warren. The Legislature, however, refused to appropriate the funding needed to treat forensic patients. So the Maine Department of Health and Human Services had no choice but to continue treating forensic patients while drawing federal funds.

CMS subjected Maine to conflicting guidance, procedural irregularities and arbitrary decision-making that undermined the federal-state partnership around Medicaid services.

Gov. Mills knows this; as attorney general, she vigorously challenged the bureaucrats’ decision-making and even approved outside counsel to appeal the decision. The first, internal appeal was decided in favor of CMS – as we anticipated; it was a necessary step to get a fair hearing in federal court.

If the Mills administration and CMS had negotiated a settlement, paying pennies on the dollar would have been a better deal. However, Janet Mills dropped Maine’s case and gave up the fight, simply preferring to hand over money to Washington bureaucrats rather than stand up for Mainers. In the process, she wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

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