AUGUSTA — State officials say they will release a portion of a $925,000, taxpayer-funded study of Maine’s welfare system on Friday, nearly four weeks after they received it.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that agency Commissioner Mary Mayhew and Gary Alexander, whose firm did the study, will present an analysis of Medicaid expansion in Maine when the partial report is released at DHHS headquarters in Augusta.
The state paid the Alexander Group $108,000 for the Medicaid portion of the study. The DHHS media statement said $54,000 was paid directly by Maine taxpayers, and the rest with federal money.
The study has been targeted by critics of Gov. Paul LePage, who claim that it was commissioned for political purposes and to validate the governor’s proposals to change programs that deliver services and benefits to low-income and disabled Mainers.
More recently, the administration has been criticized for withholding the study, the first part of which state officials received Dec. 16. The administration has refused to make the report public despite multiple requests by media outlets through the Maine Freedom of Access Act.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Janet Mills issued a letter demanding that LePage release the report, saying the governor was violating the open records law by withholding it.
The administration has said LePage has been studying the report so he can answer questions about it.
Expanding Medicaid is a source of contention among state lawmakers, who are considering a bill to add about 60,000 low-income Mainers to MaineCare – the state’s Medicaid program – through the federal Affordable Care Act.
LePage and most Republicans have opposed expansion, while Democratic legislative leaders have made it a policy priority.
Democrats say they believe that the study by Alexander, a former welfare director in Pennsylvania, will be used to bolster LePage’s argument against expansion, and will not be an independent analysis.
LePage has said that Medicaid expansion would be too costly despite assurances from the federal government that it would fully fund expansion until 2016, before gradually drawing down to 90 percent reimbursement in 2020 and beyond.
Democrats say it makes moral and economic sense to accept the federal money and provide health care coverage to low-income Mainers.
The Alexander Group’s study will also cover other elements of the state’s welfare services, including fraud prevention and a program integrity analysis, both of which have been priorities of the LePage administration.
Two elements of the study – an analysis of Maine’s welfare programs and an overhaul plan for Medicaid – were due Dec. 20, according to the contract. Neither of those two elements is expected to be released Friday. John Martins, a DHHS spokesman, would not say whether state officials have received them.
The Portland Press Herald has requested those portions of the study under the Freedom of Access Act, which requires officials to cite a provision in the law that allows the state to withhold the documents.
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