The U.S Department of Health and Human Services released Wednesday the findings of a multi-state audit, which identified $3.7 million in health care benefits paid to “deceased enrollees” in Minnesota.
According to a press release from the Inspector General of the U.S. DHS, Minnesota made $3.7 million in “unallowable payments to managed care organizations for deceased enrollees in state health care programs between 2014 and 2016.”
The improper payments were made because Minnesota’s Medicaid program “did not always identify Medicaid beneficiaries’ death information” in its computer systems. The press release notes that the payments “occurred in the early days of a new computer system developed to help administer federal health care changes.”
Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, which runs the state’s Medicaid program, said it was aware of the issue before the audit was released and has been working on recovering overpayments.
“Ensuring our records are up-to-date so we do not pay for individuals who are no longer receiving care is a continual challenge,” Minnesota DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead told The Star Tribune. “We gather death information from many different sources, which do not always report in a timely manner. Because these payments are made to health plans in advance we will always have to reconcile accounts.”
Republican lawmakers, however, believe that the overpayments are just the latest failure out of a state agency that has been plagued by scandal. In August, for instance, House Republicans sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz asking for an “independent audit” of DHS after it was revealed that the state issued $48 million to ineligible treatment centers and $25 million in improper payments to two tribal nations.
“This is just another example of the problems that have taken place within the Department of Human Services. While the issue is now behind us, it highlights the need for us to continue to investigate what is happening within the agency,” said State Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne), the Republican lead on the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.
“That’s why House Republicans have been pushing Democrats to address the failures of DHS during this week’s mini session,” he added.
State Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, said Republicans “passed periodic data matching in 2015,” despite objections from former Gov. Mark Dayton, to “address this exact issue.”
“Senate Republicans don’t want to see a single tax dollar go to waste because we know that every tax dollar that goes to government comes directly from the family budget and the retiree’s savings account. The people of Minnesota don’t just have $3.7 million laying around they weren’t going to use,” she continued.
“I appreciate Commissioner Jodi Harpstead’s transparency and efforts on restoring trust, however, we will continue to require DHS to adopt additional program integrity measures so Minnesotans know their tax dollars aren’t going to waste,” Benson concluded.
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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 “Minnesota Capitol” by Gabriel Vanslette. CC BY 3.0.