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Legislative Update (9-12-19)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

The complete dysfunction and lack of leadership at the Minnesota Department of Human Services has been well documented in recent months. Unfortunately, House Democrats continue to ignore the agency’s massive problems.

All 55 House Republicans signed two letters over the last month or so urging Democrats to hold DHS hearings in St. Paul or at the mini-session. Democrats have refused to accommodate our requests for hearings and, now, Democrats have even failed to include DHS discussions on the agenda they announced for the mini-session in Winona on Oct. 2-4.

Speaker Hortman has indicated no hearings will be held on DHS until at least December, yet they conducted a hearing yesterday on assisted suicide legislation and have two Health and Human Services hearings scheduled for the mini-session.

It’s almost as if Democrats hope problems at DHS will go away if they close their eyes and wait. That is an insult to taxpayers, who deserve answers for these issues that have cropped up since House Republicans first asked for DHS hearings in July:

  • On July 22, the Star Tribune reported that Faye Bernstein, a lead contract specialist at DHS, claimed she had been retaliated against for raising concerns about “serious non-compliance issues” with DHS contracts.
  • On July 29, the former medical director of DHS’ Medicaid program circulated an open letter saying DHS leadership was “hostile and dismissive” towards the advice and concerns provided by himself and other medical professionals.
  • Also on July 29, former head of the DHS Office of Inspector General Carolyn Ham was transferred to the DHS Office of General Counsel, returning to work despite being under investigation for her role in failing to prevent pervasive fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).
  • On August 1, the Pioneer Press first reported on $25.3 million in overpayments to two tribal governments for Medicaid substance abuse treatments. We have since learned that the Walz administration intends to pay back funds owed to the federal government using state tax dollars, and may attempt to recoup funds from the tribal governments to backfill state funding. According to a subsequent Pioneer Press report, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan has stated that the Walz administration will seek to “change the law that holds tribal governments financially responsible for overpayments”.
  • On August 16, the Star Tribune reported that Mohamed Alfash, who was the equity coordinator in the DHS Office of Inspector General, was fired as a result of retaliation for concerns he raised within DHS.
  • On August 26, Deputy Commissioner Claire Wilson announced her intent to resign, just weeks after rescinding her previous resignation prior to the departure of former DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey.
  • Also on August 26, the Pioneer Press reported that DHS will be required to reimburse the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approximately $48 million for improper payments to institutions for mental diseases.

DHS is our state’s largest agency and this level of dysfunction is completely unacceptable. Minnesotans deserve answers and there is no excuse for Democrats failing to conduct hearings to get to the bottom of this.

If Democrats are unwilling to let us fix the problem, they are the problem.

Sincerely,

Steve

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