LePage Administration Releases Alexander Group's Welfare Study after Months-Long Delay
Moretto, Mario, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)
AUGUSTA, Maine -- The Maine Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday released a much-anticipated study by a controversial consultant, which presented analysis of and recommendations for the state's welfare programs.
The 228-page analysis was the result of months of work by the Rhode Island-based Alexander Group, which received a $925,000 no- bid contract for consulting services from the Department of Health and Human Services in September. It was released without comment by DHHS or Gov. Paul LePage.
The report originally was due in December, but DHHS officials have said the Alexander Group had been given extensions to complete the work. On Thursday, the department provided a contract amendment showing that the consultant's contract had been extended through July.
Despite missing several of the original deadlines outlined in the contract, the consultant has been paid more than $500,000.
An earlier report, on the feasibility of expanding Medicaid, was the subject of fierce controversy after its release in January. Democrats and other critics said the report was nothing more than a political document aimed at bolstering LePage's position against Medicaid expansion. They also took aim at the consulting firm's chief, Gary Alexander, who had been heavily criticized in Pennsylvania when he was that state's public welfare chief.
Majority Democrats in the Legislature went so far as to pass a bill sponsored by Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland, that would have canceled the Alexander Group's contract. LePage vetoed the bill.
Generally, the new report praised the efforts of LePage's administration in working to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in the state's welfare system, and it presented many of the same recommendations that the Republican governor and his allies put forward in the form of bills during the recently concluded legislative session.
Those efforts were summarily dismissed by majority Democrats in the House and Senate.
Included in the recommendations is a call for the state to request a global Medicaid waiver identical to the one Alexander was granted during the final days of George W. Bush's presidency in January 2009, when Alexander ran the Rhode Island's Department of Public Welfare. The waiver gave Rhode Island near-total flexibility in administering the federally funded health insurance plan.
It's the only state to have received such a waiver, and many believe President Barack Obama will be much less likely to grant such a waiver than his predecessor -- especially given Medicaid's keystone importance in Obama's signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
The Alexander Group also recommends tightening work and training requirements for welfare recipients.
That includes a suggested elimination of all exceptions to a requirement that recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a cash benefits program, participate in volunteer, training or work programs. …