(2011 Flashback) ACORN Stalker James O’Keefe Videos DHHS/ MaineCare “Fraud”; LePage Responds in Support of Clip

Posted on March 7, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

(Originally posted 11 Aug 2011. Reposted today as news comes that JamesOKeefeIII has been ordered to pay $100K settlement to a former ACORN employee.  ~AP)

From Portland Press Herald:

AUGUSTA – Two conservative groups, Americans For Prosperity of Maine and the Maine Heritage Policy Center, presented a video clip they allege exposes “vulnerabilities” in Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. The video, sent to Carol Weston, state director of AFP, by James O’Keefe, shows an actor portraying a drug smuggler attempting to receive medicaid benefits. According to Weston, he eventually leaves the state office with an application form to fill out to receive MaineCare benefits.

The video shows the DHHS worker, identified only as Diane, suggesting that because the applicant receives no paychecks to report he has no income – despite the fact that he tells her he runs a cash business. But the worker also repeatedly tells the applicant, who speaks with an Irish accent,that she cannot help him fill out his application until he presents photo identification, a passport or naturalization papers.

She also repeatedly tries to get him to apply for insurance through Dirigo Health, which offers subsidized insurance, but would require him to pay a premium.

Here is the full video:

LePage’s office were quick to respond, releasing the following statement below. It is interesting to note that while the governor applauds the actions of attempting to fraudulently file for MaineCare by O’Keefe, LePage also acknowledges that the DHHS worker herself committed no fraud.

Governor LePage’s Statement on the Video Revealing Potential Vulnerability to Fraud within Maine’s Welfare System

For Immediate Release: Thursday, August 11, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett

Augusta, Maine – The following statement from Governor Paul LePage was released Thursday morning from the Office of the Governor.

“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.”

Seems to me that a good first step for Mayhew would be to call on the AG, to see if charges should be brought against O’Keefe!

A spokesman from Maine Heritage Policy Council was quick to comment as well:

Lance Dutson, chief executive officer of MHPC, said while the video only depicts one instance it supports the theory his group has about the ‘culture’ at DHHS.”It shows clearly what many of us have believed for some time – that Maine’s welfare system is exceedingly vulnerable to fraud and that we have front line stewards of taxpayer funds who are not adequately equipped to perform their duties,” he said.

Sara Gagne Holmes of Maine Equal Justice Partners emphasized that the video showed no actual fraud and the applicant did not receive any benefits.

“It was a screening interview; there was no application. This person never received Medicaid or any other benefits,” she said. “There are checks and balances in the system that we didn’t really see in the video.”

From looking at the MaineCare application information page, it appears that the worker and her supervisor followed the accepted protocol.

To find out whether you are financially eligible, you will need to visit one of the Regional Offices of the Office of Integrated Access and Support Services. Use the Office Finder to locate the office which serves you.Before your visit, you can print and complete the application by clicking on the link below.(You may prefer to have the form completed during your interview.) If you are not sure which application to complete, call the office which serves your town.

Application Forms When you apply for MaineCare, you may be asked to provide some or all of the items below:

  • New Citizenship and Identity Requirements to Get MaineCare
  • Copy of Power of Attorney, Conservator, or Guardianship documents
  • Documentation of all income sources and amounts (with the exception of Social Security and SSI)
  • Documentation of the value for property that is not the applicant’s residence
  • Copies of health insurance cards including Medicare
  • Documentation of health insurance payments
  • Copy of trust agreement where the applicant is a grantor or beneficiary
  • Copy of annuity contract
  • Copy of life insurance policies owned by the applicant and/or their spouse
  • Copy of prepaid burial contracts
  • Declaration of contents held in safety deposit box
  • Documentation of liquid assets owned currently by the applicant and/or spouse, or those that have their name on them.These include:
  • Current statements on all savings and checking accounts, certificate of deposits, IRA or other investments
  • Copy of savings bonds that the applicant or spouse have an interestNote that DHHS is expected to review the 60 months prior to application to determine if the applicant or their spouse gave away something of value without receiving equal value in return. This is called a ‘transfer of asset,’ and depending on what was transferred, when and to whom, it may result in a penalty. The penalty is based on the value of the transfer and results in a period of months MaineCare will not pay long term care expenses on behalf of the individual. To do this review we request: Statements on all savings and checking accounts, certificate of deposits, IRA or other investments for the prior 12 months, and the statement on that same account for month 60 prior to application.Documentation of values and use of all assets cashed in, closed, sold, transferred or otherwise liquidated during the 60 months prior to application.

Some questions remain:

One more question, and it’s a biggie:

Did O’Keefe break Maine violation of privacy laws? The answer appears to be hinged upon whether or not the DHHS offices are considered public or private property.

If that is indeed the case, O’Keefe could be in a world of trouble- and the LePage administration today, along with the MHPC and AFP, were applauding criminal acts against Maine state law. Oops!

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