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Maine to Pay Conservative Consultant $1M for Medicaid Study
11/19/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

The LePage administration has agreed to pay a conservative welfare consultant nearly $1 million to do a comprehensive review of the state's Medicaid programs. Gary Alexander, a former welfare department head in Pennsylvania, ushered in a number of controversial reforms in that state, and in Rhode Island, that dramatically reduced the welfare rolls. As A.J. Higgins reports, the decision is being suspiciously eyed by majority Democrats at the State House.

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Maine to Pay $1M for Medicaid Study
Originally Aired: 11/19/2013 5:30 PM

Although he was hired to bring efficiency and accountability to Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare, one of the very first things Gary Alexander decided to do as secretary when he got to Harrisburg was institute a dress code for all of the women among the agency's 17,000 employees.

That kind of attention to detail - and a reputation as a conservative welfare slasher in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island - may be among the chief reasons Gov. Paul LePage encouraged the state Department of Health and Human Services to sign a $1 million contract with the Alexander Group for top down review of the state's Medicaid programs.

In Pennsylvania, he was known as the secretary who declared war on the poor by cutting off health benefits to more than 130,000 people - including nearly 90,000 children.

"Those are absolutely confirmed figures by the state - these are numbers my newspaper reported," says Amy Worden, who has covered politics and government for the Philadelphia Inquirer for the last 13 years. Worden says Pennsylvania is now trying to rebuild its safety net for the poor after Alexander submitted his resignation to Gov. Tom Corbett in February of this year.

Among Alexander's proposals in Pennsylvania: implementing asset tests for food stamp eligibility that would disqualify those over the age of 60 with more than $2,000 in the bank. Worden says Alexander was brought in by Corbett to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse at the $30 billion state welfare agency.

"He proceeded in Pennsylvania to literally run a blitzkrieg over the whole welfare landscape, throwing tens of thousands of people - up into the more than 100,000 individuals, many of them disabled, the elderly and children off of public assistance programs."

The controversy generated by Alexander's policies are of little concern to Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. She says his review of Medicaid programs, as well as the implications of the state seeking an expansion of Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act, are welcome and needed.

"We are looking to benefit from the national expertise that Gary and his team can bring to the table, to have the benefit of a wealth of experience, and an opportunity to evaluate a comprehensive array of recommendations to help improve the management and delivery of core services for the people of this state," Mayhew says.

"Is this the latest gimmick to deny and delay coverage for tens of thousands of Mainers, including 3,000 veterans?" asks Rep. Jeff McCabe.

McCabe, of Skowhegan, is the House majority leader, and stands among Democratic leaders at the State House who are questioning why the LePage administration would spend $1 million of state taxpayers' money to produce a study they suspect is bound to produce a predetermined result.

LePage has already said that Maine cannot afford Medicaid expansion, much less afford the number of people now receiving Medicaid benefits. Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, of Allagash, says aspects of the study will still be ongoing after the Legislature adjourns its short session in April, making the impetus for LePage's study appear more suited for his reelection bid than of any help to the sitting lawmakers.

Jackson says the Alexander Group's reputation does not instill confidence among members of his party.

"They've been disregarded in other states, and now they've hired them to come to this state and try to pass their own kind of snake oil magic," Jackson says. "But it's just not something that's honest or sincere, and it's just an election type of scam to try and make the governor look better."

House Republicans Leaders Ken Fredette and Alex Willette applauded LePage's decision to contract with Alexander, saying the governor is taking another important step in bringing accountability and cost savings to Maine's welfare system.


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