CONTRIBUTORS

‘Fraud’ video a waste of state time and money

Posted Aug. 19, 2011, at 3:48 p.m.

The recent video brought forward by the Maine Heritage Policy Center tells an interesting tale; not the tale, however, that the center has tried to tell. It certainly appears, in the professionally edited two-minute version, that the MaineCare worker (Diane) tells the potential customer to ignore his undocumented income. Watching the 47-minute version of the video, something quite different is portrayed.

In that long video, we see a worker offering information about MaineCare eligibility, offering information about COBRA to extend his soon-to-expire insurance and giving details about the Dirigo insurance offered in Maine. We should expect this from our safety net programs in Maine — workers who are familiar enough with alternatives so that potential MaineCare customers realize there are options if they are ineligible for MaineCare.

When potential customers go to a MaineCare office they may be under significant stress; many do not want to ask for a “handout” and many are uncomfortable about releasing personal financial details of their private lives. When customers are evasive or unclear about issues, it is the worker’s job to be nonconfrontational and help them understand what information must be disclosed and how it is used.

Both workers maintained an upbeat attitude throughout a long, tedious, repetitive and evasive interview and were never confrontational about the customer’s evasive responses. Throughout, each worker continued to show the respect we would each want if we needed to ask for the assistance of a government program.

When the customer asked for a paper application, the worker complied and asked for intervention of a more senior worker to help answer the customer’s questions. That senior worker’s intervention helped answer some of the questions about income and expenses that the customer was asking and even explained, in a nonconfrontational way, that the evasive and unclear answers that the customer was providing made it hard to give clear answers to the questions being asked.

The customer, however, continued to be evasive and even indicated that he would have his name taken off of an account that had significant monies in it. He had access to the account to pay his expenses. The senior worker explained that a letter would be necessary to explain his use of this money and a phone number should also be provided by the holders of the account so the Department of Health and Human Services could contact them.

Throughout the 47 minutes of this video we see workers, our Maine state employees, acting professionally and giving as much information as possible to a customer who was being, as we now know, purposefully evasive. This attempt to entrap our employees was a failure; they neither violated the customer’s rights nor declared him qualified or ineligible for MaineCare.

This “customer” wasted a significant amount of state workers’ time to try to prove that people are fraudulently receiving MaineCare or that worker errors are creating fraud. Neither case was proven. These facts can only be known by watching the long video.

Steve Hoad of Windsor is a farmer.

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