There’s a deja vu quality to the news this week that Oregon overpaid the federal government millions of dollars for Medicaid. Didn’t we just read this a few months ago?
But no, it really is a separate case. In the new disclosure, the Oregon Health Authority failed to distinguish Medicare from Medicaid eligibility, and therefore improperly collected $74 million from the federal government. It has repaid $10 million, but the governor says she was not informed by the now-ousted agency head, Lynne Saxton.
The earlier case had to do with failing to check to see if Medicaid recipients still qualified for coverage. When the agency finally caught up with the checks, it dumped 55,000 people who weren’t eligible, having misspent millions of taxpayer dollars.
Gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler has called for an independent probe of the new $74 million disclosure. The Republican lawmaker from Bend wants Brown to appoint an independent lawyer to investigate. He also urged her to try to recoup the money and to release all related communication records. Brown subsequently did request repayment but ignored the idea of a probe or records release.
By whatever method, the governor owes Oregonians a clear picture of what’s going on at the OHA and what she’s doing to fix an agency that has suffered a series of embarrassing leadership failures dating back at least to the Cover Oregon fiasco. Brown has been in office for nearly three years now, so she owns the problems.
If the agency cannot spend its funds responsibly, voters have additional reason to reject the new taxes that prompted Measure 101. The initiative, which voters will consider in January, would overturn the Legislature’s poorly designed effort to raise additional funds for Medicaid.
We already know the taxes themselves are bad policy; they apply unevenly and target struggling hospitals and consumers with already climbing premiums. The problems at the OHA add another reason to vote against them.
The situation calls for transparency from the governor, not political posturing.