Democrats insist on OPEGA review of DHHS cover-up

AUGUSTA — Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature today strengthened calls for a nonpartisan investigation into an alleged cover-up of a significant computer error in the Department of Health and Human Services. The error led to 19,000 ineligible Maine people receiving access to state health care services.

Last week during a meeting of legislative leaders, Republicans in the Legislature voted to set aside a request from Senator Joe Brannigan, D-Portland, for a nonpartisan investigation of the incident by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.

“It is time for the administration to, first, take responsibility for their mismanagement and second, and most importantly, take responsibility for willfully misleading lawmakers,” said Sen. Brannigan.

Brannigan added, “It is disappointing that Republican lawmakers don’t share the same sense of urgency and outrage.”

The error was withheld from lawmakers during the height of budget negotiations in January, when the department first removed the individuals from the program. The state auditor and Legislature’s fiscal office flagged the spike in enrollment in June 2011, but the LePage administration did not come forward with the information until March 2012 – after the Legislature passed the budget cuts.

“While we were weighing the governor’s proposal to remove health care from the elderly, people with disabilities, and children, we were kept in the dark about significant errors,” said Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, who serves on the Health and Human Services Committee.

Sanborn added, “We were asked to make these decisions based on information that the LePage administration knew was wrong, even as they assured us that their information was correct time and time again.”

Brannigan sent a letter directly to the Government Oversight Committee requesting the investigation on Friday.