AUGUSTA, Maine — The first portion of a five-part study on Maine’s welfare system that had a target due date of Dec. 1 has not been submitted to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, a department spokesman said Monday.
The Alexander Group, the consulting company awarded a nearly $1 million no-bid contract for the study, did not meet the first target date on a $108,000 portion of the study meant to examine the feasibility of expanding Medicaid in Maine, according to John Martins, a spokesman for DHHS. He would not say when the department expected the report.
Gary Alexander, the consulting firm’s top executive, previously served as secretary of public welfare for Pennsylvania and held a similar post as secretary of Health and Human Services in Rhode Island. Democrats in those states criticized him for basing welfare reform measures on conservative ideology, and Maine Democrats have questioned the necessity of the study and the process Republican Gov. Paul LePage used to award the contract.
Martins said the company would not be fully paid for the report until it is delivered. Under its contract with the state, the Alexander Group is due to be paid on a monthly basis and should have received three $61,680 payments — one each in September, October and November.
The terms of the contract also allow the state to withhold $70,000 of the price of the first portion of the report until it is delivered. The final part of the study is due in May 2014, which is after the legislative session is scheduled to end.
Meanwhile, Martins in an email also noted that the report may be reviewed internally by department officials before it is released to lawmakers and the public.
The $925,000 contract for the study, inked in September, was first made public in late November. Some Democratic state lawmakers on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee have voiced concerns about the objectivity of the company involved.
The contract in Maine was offered exclusively to Alexander’s firm because, according to Martins, it was “uniquely qualified” to perform the work.
Some Republicans have praised the department’s decision to hire the company to review Maine’s welfare system.
The company and Alexander, however, have a controversial record, and in November Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a report alleging that “long-term mismanagement” cost the state $7 million. Some of that occurred during Alexander’s tenure at the helm of the Department of Public Welfare.
State Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, the Senate chairwoman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said she too would be requesting copies of the reports as soon as they become available.
Craven also voiced frustration over the communications between LePage’s administration and the Legislature regarding the study and the contract for the study.
“We invited the department to come and talk to us about the Alexander Group and the report and they have refused to come to us at all,” Craven said. “I don’t know if Alexander himself is going to come but the department refused to come and speak to us about it.”
Attempts to reach Alexander for comment were not successful Monday. LePage’s office also did not return requests by phone or email for comment on Monday.
The Alexander Group produced a 92-page, $220,000 report for the Arkansas State Assembly in July reviewing a possible Medicaid expansion in that state.
Among other things, that report recommends Arkansas transition to a market-based health insurance system and that it “streamline basic benefit packages for Medicaid recipients.”
Craven and state Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said they were concerned the state was in line to pay by installment nearly $1 million for a study and the company delivering the study had missed its first deadline.
“My understanding is when you have a contract and you have a date, part of the agreement, the legal agreement, is that you deliver your report on the date you have promised to deliver your report on,” Rotundo said.
Rotundo, the House chairwoman of the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee, said LePage’s administration and DHHS should be focusing on some of the state’s crisis-sized problems instead of spending money on another study.
She also again said Alexander was a “crony” of LePage’s hired to develop a report that supported the governor’s political views in opposition to a Medicaid expansion in Maine.
She said problems at the state’s hospital for those with violent mental illness, the Riverview Psychiatric Center, and ongoing issues with the state’s nonemergency ride program for those on Medicaid were more pressing matters.
“His priorities are truly misplaced,” Rotundo said of LePage. “The governor’s wasting taxpayers’ money hiring this crony while his mismanaged transportation system can’t get people to their doctors for [kidney] dialysis.”
She also said the reports from the Alexander Group should be made available as soon as the state receives them.
“We are paying $1 million for these reports, I think we would like to know what is in them,” Rotundo said.