Keller @ Large: What A Waste

By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) — Wasteful spending in the state’s massive health care programs has become a major focus of the state auditor’s office. And with the feds threatening to pull back on the Medicaid funds it sends us, Auditor Suzanne Bump is sounding the alarm about state spending practices that make you shake your head and say – what a waste.

“In two audits we’ve found its run into hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars,” says Bump, who detailed the jaw-dropping waste her office found when they reviewed improper and duplicate payments made by Masshealth, the state agency that administers health care funds for the poor. They spend nearly 40 percent of the state budget, but Bump’s review found Masshealth routinely failed to “use data, to measure performance, to do longterm planning.”

“When government fails to do that the result is inefficiencies and poor performance,” she notes.

One recent audit found $193 million dollars in dubious payments to just one Masshealth program that provides behavioral health services including family therapy, crisis intervention and detox.

“The state agency and its contractors were not on the same page as to who was responsible for what,” says Bump, who claims bureaucratic confusion was a key cause of wasteful spending.

In their formal response to the audit, Masshealth officials challenged that $193 million figure, but did agree to update their payment procedures.

So how did such an important government function get  so messed up?

With the onset of universal health care here eleven years ago, says Bump, Medicaid spending exploded, and state government was overwhelmed by the details of managing it properly. She encourages the public to speak out when they see examples of misspent funds, and you can help.

Drop me an email at keller@wbztv.com or reach out on Twitter, @kelleratlarge, and we’ll look into it for a possible future report.

More from Jon Keller
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