State Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) (pictured above), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, recently revealed that the Minnesota Department of Human Services has lost more than $300 million in the last three years, either “by error or fraud.”
As The Minnesota Sun reported, DHS said it must repay $48 million to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a sum that was issued to ineligible chemical dependency treatment centers. That’s in addition to the $25 million two tribal nations improperly received for substance abuse programs.
“A $48 million mistake is kind of a big deal. Yet here in Minnesota it’s just the latest item on a long list of problems coming from the Department of Human Services,” Benson writes in a new op-ed for The Star Tribune.
She then goes on to list the numerous financial issues facing DHS, stating:
In April of last year, DHS wrote off $30 million in MinnesotaCare premiums because their existing software couldn’t reconcile the payments.
The following month, we heard testimony of widespread fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program, estimated at more than $6 million by the Legislative Auditors’ office.
Then a series of data breaches exposed the personal information of up to 35,000 Minnesotans.
The department recently shocked the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the White Earth Nation by telling them to repay $25 million in overpayments, even though the tribes had spent the money according to DHS guidelines.
Which leads us to this week’s round of overpayments — $48 million worth of Medicaid payments the federal government is requesting be paid back for improper use.
That’s not to mention, Benson notes, the “personnel problems that lead to resignations, un-resignations, re-resignations and three commissioners in less than a year.”
“As chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, I’ve dedicated time this interim to getting to the bottom of what has become an embarrassingly long list of failures and disappointments from the Department of Human Services,” she continues.
Benson expressed disappointment with incoming Commissioner Jodi Harpstead, who said in one of her first public interviews that Minnesotans should move past the scandals and focus on the “good work” of DHS employees.
“Perhaps the first thing she should do is ask to be fully informed about any other known issues at DHS, then meet with her boss Gov. Tim Walz and the committee chairs to discuss the problems. It’s time to get ahead of the whistleblowers and media reports and get an honest assessment of the current challenges,” she continues. “Because despite their best intentions, DHS and its employees lost, either by error or fraud, more than $300 million in the last three years.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “State Senator Michelle Benson” Sen. Michelle Benson.