AUGUSTA, Maine — The House of Representatives will take up a bill to nullify the controversial no-bid contract awarded to the Alexander Group to review the state’s welfare system, including Medicaid.
The contract, worth $925,000, was awarded to the Rhode Island-based consultant in September. Under the terms of the contract, the consultant will deliver several studies and recommendations for improvement of the state’s welfare system.
Democrats on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee approved the bill in a party-line vote on Wednesday, sending it to the full House, where it will be considered in the coming days.
Since the contract became public, it’s drawn fierce criticism from Democrats who say Republican Gov. Paul LePage awarded the sole-source contract in an effort to bolster his position against Medicaid expansion. Questions have also been raised about the methodology the group used in arriving to its conclusion that Medicaid expansion would cost the state $807 million over 10 years.
“It was really just a political document,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, on Wednesday. “The administration could have thrown that together over a weekend without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on that.”
Republicans have defended the contract, saying it was merited because the Alexander Group is “uniquely qualified” to provide its service to the state. The consulting agency’s chief, Gary Alexander, was the public welfare chief of Rhode Island when that state received a one-of-a-kind global Medicaid waiver, which gave the state unparalleled freedom in implementing the publicly funded health insurance program as it saw fit. LePage wants to obtain a similar waiver in Maine.
The House is expected to take up the bill sometime next week. While Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, they will need to get some Republican support to override a near-certain veto of the bill by LePage.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.