Embattled Oregon Democrat Governor Kate Brown is under fire this week for her gross mishandling of yet another Medicaid scandal. This time the state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, is slamming Brown for refusing an independent investigation into the scandal, keeping the public in the dark about it until the Oregonian began its own investigation, as well as for failing at “basic responsible management.”
Under Kate Brown, the Oregon Health Authority overpaid $74 million in federal healthcare dollars to providers – potentially putting Oregon taxpayers on the hook for paying back the money. But Kate Brown claims that she only found out about the problem in mid-October, years after the overpayments began. Kate Brown has so far refused to release her administration’s records and communications related to the scandal, and the Oregonian reports that Kate Brown is “not interested in an independent investigation.”
Either Kate Brown is clueless as to what’s going on in her own government, or she’s not telling the truth.
For three weeks, Gov. Kate Brown had the perfect opportunity to play the part of a state executive who demands accountability, protects taxpayer dollars and acts like the governor Oregonians deserve.
But for three weeks, despite knowing that the Oregon Health Authority overpaid its 16 health care partners $74 million in federal dollars from 2014 to 2016, she has failed at basic responsible management. She kept quiet about the misspending, going public only as The Oregonian/OregonLive was preparing a story exposing the overpayments. She glossed over the fact that the federal government, which provided the money that went to health care partners, has already demanded $10 million back from the state and could seek the rest. And she ignored the troubling decision that someone in the state made in 2016 to let the private and nonprofit partners just keep the remaining $64 million in public dollars.
…The governor shouldn’t stop there. As distasteful as it might be to follow the lead of her rival, she should appoint an independent investigator. The mystery surrounding who authorized the care organizations to keep money that didn’t belong to them alone merits an inquiry – particularly considering their prominence as regular campaign contributors to Brown and others. Also puzzling is the fact that Brown said she was never told of the mistake or the requirement to repay the federal government until mid-October, an omission that, one might think, would concern her as the state’s top elected official.
But the overpayments fiasco marks yet another sign of persistent mismanagement in Oregon’s Medicaid expansion. In this instance, the state overbilled the federal government for Medicaid patients who were also eligible for Medicare coverage. An investigation can and should focus on how these errors occurred, why they escaped notice for so long and ways to improve practices or processes.
Unfortunately, the governor’s not interested in an independent investigation. Berri Leslie, Brown’s deputy chief of staff, told The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board that the governor trusts her new director, Patrick Allen, to sort through the problems, understand the scope and identify what needs to be corrected….