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Undercover video hints at potential for welfare fraud

6:39 PM, Aug 11, 2011   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Conservative groups say a video shot in a state welfare office shows a potential for fraud and a need for reforms in Maine's Medicaid system.

The video of an actor speaking to a case worker in a Biddeford office of the state Health and Human Services Department was released Thursday.

In it, the person claiming to run a "pharmaceutical importing business" and who has enough money to buy a Corvette applies for taxpayer-sponsored Medicaid health insurance. The video, produced by James O'Keefe and projectveritas.com, was provided to Americans for Prosperity-Maine and the Maine Heritage Policy Center, shows the case worker saying the applicant has no income.

Gov. Paul LePage says the video doesn't show someone trying to defraud the system, but it points to a need for better staff training. LePage issued this statement Thursday afternoon:

"I was made aware of the incident involving the Eligibility Specialist late yesterday and I did watch the video. I want to thank the individual who took this video; although I would have liked to receive in February when he filmed it and we would be six months further along in fixing the problem. I am concerned with what I saw on the video for two reasons. First, that we are not providing the best service to the citizens of Maine. Much time was wasted in this interview. Second, it was clear to me that this individual was poorly trained and I take full responsibility for that. The video in its entirety does not show a person willfully helping someone de-fraud the welfare system. It does show a need for further job knowledge and continuous and improved staff training. The employee has been on the job for approximately a year.

We need to do a better job providing our employees the best training possible and ensure they know their job and the responsibility that comes with it. The Fraud and Abuse Work Team has identified the need for better education and training of front line staff in identifying and preventing fraud and abuse. They also are working to identify systems vulnerable to fraud and abuse.

Although I do not believe the video shows an employee willfully allowing abuse of the welfare system, I do believe it is an example of how poor training can open the door to fraud and abuse. We must protect the limited resources for those who are truly in need and shutdown the benefits for those abusing the system.

I have asked Commissioner Mayhew to look into the incident immediately and to take the necessary steps to correct this problem."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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