The Alexander Group delivered a deeply flawed report last month examining the feasibility of expanding Medicaid in Maine. In fact, the consulting group hired by Gov. Paul LePage’s administration didn’t deliver a feasibility study at all. It delivered a political document disguised as impartial analysis created at taxpayers’ expense.
Taxpayers were cheated out of $108,000 — the feasibility study portion of a $925,000 no-bid contract.
The report fell so far short of actually determining the feasibility of expanding Medicaid in Maine that the Alexander Group’s analysts should be embarrassed. The team calculated only the cost of expansion — in a methodologically suspect way that inflated the final number — without considering any effects, either direct or indirect, that offset the cost. Its calculations were so methodologically suspect an independent analysis conducted for the AARP determined one of the Alexander Group’s cost estimates was $575 million too high.
Now, the Alexander Group report has been so thoroughly discredited and become so much of a liability, the LePage administration is trying to de-emphasize it and divert attention from it.
It’s natural for Democratic leaders in the Legislature to want to do something to right this wrong. Democratic leaders on the Health and Human Services Committee said recently they’ll propose legislation to cancel the Alexander Group contract.
As much as we think the Alexander Group deserves to lose its contract and as much as we agree the contract represents a misuse of taxpayer funds, we would recommend the Legislature resist intervening in this way.
By proposing to cancel an individual contract signed by the executive branch, the Legislature risks setting a dangerous precedent. If the Legislature feels it’s appropriate to nullify this contract, what’s to stop future lawmakers from seeing it fit to nullify a contract awarded following a competitive bidding process? Or what about no-bid contracts awarded to qualified entities?
We have warned the Legislature against micromanagement when it comes to a different contract this winter. Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, is sponsoring a bill to cancel a state contract with a Medicaid transportation broker that has failed to fulfill its responsibilities. Jackson’s bill is dangerous because it cancels a contract without suggesting a backup plan for managing a crucial program on which thousands of Medicaid recipients depend.
It’s the Legislature’s role to, in partnership with the executive branch, set policy direction. It’s the responsibility of the executive branch to carry it out. It’s the Legislature’s responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable. It’s not the Legislature’s duty to micromanage. The consequences of micromanagement can sometimes be real and dangerous.
With the Alexander Group contract, that line of thinking still leaves Maine taxpayers on the hook for paying $108,000 for a report steeped in ideology and faulty logic that only helps LePage (or perhaps it doesn’t) to prove a political point. It doesn’t come close to accomplishing what it should: offering a comprehensive, reliable, nonpartisan analysis that informs a debate about the costs and benefits of expanding Medicaid.
A clause in the contract DHHS signed with the Alexander Group allows the department to terminate the contract “in whole, or in part, whenever for any reason the Agreement Administrator shall determine that such termination is in the best interest of the Department.”
We would argue the department didn’t receive what it required from the first installment of the Alexander Group’s work, and it’s not in the best interest of the department to determine policy positions based on faulty analysis.
That’s reason enough in our estimation for the department itself — without legislative intervention — to declare the contract null and void.