Congresswoman Betty McCollum Remarks Joint Hearing – Is Government Adequately Protecting Taxpayers from Medicaid Fraud?
I would like to thank you for including me in today's hearing.
In this Congress – the safety net which protects millions of Americans – the elderly, children, and the disabled – is under attack. While tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires are protected, critical services for our most vulnerable citizens are being slashed.
Medicaid provides critical health services, keeps people in their homes, and contributes to a society that values human dignity. There should be no confusion about the Republican agenda with regard to Medicaid: they want to cut it and block grant it.
Today's hearing – as far as it relates to Minnesota's Medicaid program – is about accusations of fraud under the administration of a former Republican governor and the story of his Democratic successor who has made important reforms to the program.
Whether it is Medicaid or any other government program, I want tax dollars to be spent wisely and effectively. If waste, fraud or abuse is taking place, it must be investigated and the responsible company, individual, or state need to be held accountable.
Mrs. Bachmann, Mr. Ellison and I are here because of the committee's focus on Minnesota. I think that is terrific.
Our state is delivering high quality, low cost and better care than anywhere else in the country. Last month, the Commonwealth Fund released a scorecard comparing all local health care regions in the United States. The report evaluated areas of access, quality, costs, and health outcomes.
St. Paul, Minnesota – my home – ranked number one in the nation as the best overall health system. Rochester, Minnesota was number three. Minneapolis, Minnesota was number four. St. Cloud, Minnesota was number seven.
Minnesota is a model for delivering health care.
I applaud our doctors, nurses, hospitals, health care professionals, and policy makers for a partnership that works better than anywhere else. Minnesota has long been committed to expanding health coverage, containing costs, and improving quality. We are unique in requiring HMOs to be non-profit organizations. Quality health care is a state priority, not profit taking.
In 1992, we created MinnesotaCare to provide access to health services more than 148,000 children and working parents with each month – families who otherwise would not have access to health coverage.
Both the Institute for Clinical Systems and Minnesota Community Measurement are working to improve health system performance and quality outcomes in our state. And, nationally, more than16 percent of Americans are uninsured, but in Minnesota more than 90-percent of Minnesotans have health coverage.
Clearly I know Minnesota is not perfect; we have more work to do, but I ask this committee to show me a state that is performing better. I don't think you can.
For eight years, the Republican administration of Governor Tim Pawlenty negotiated Medicaid contracts with health plans with little to no transparency. If the terms of these contracts were negotiated poorly or if they allowed waste and abuse to take place, then this committee has an obligation to investigate. Unfortunately, those members of the Pawlenty administration responsible for negotiating on behalf of taxpayers are not here to testify.
Starting in January 2011, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton's administration took action to increase transparency, accountability, and value for taxpayers. Commissioner Jesson is here to testify and she is to be commended for implementing reforms that should be a guide for every other state – particularly in states where for-profit managed care organizations may be extracting massive taxpayer funded profits.
Here are some of the reforms being implemented by Governor Dayton and Commissioner Jesson:
- Enacting competitive bidding for managed care contracts saving state and federal taxpayers millions;
- Creating the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Human Services to root out waste, fraud and abuse; and
- Launching a single website with all managed care contracts and reports, financial data, and quality measures available to the public – a truly unprecedented level of transparency
According to the Minnesota's Department of Human Services, these reforms will save the taxpayers $600 million dollars. In addition, Governor Dayton, and Democrats and Republicans State Legislators worked in a bi-partisan basis to require third-party financial audits of managed care plans going forward.
If this Committee is serious about investigating Medicaid fraud, then for-profit and non-profit health plans must be required to open their books and let the public see if they are profiting at taxpayer expense. Other states and this Congress must follow Minnesota's lead.
I'm proud of the health system we have in Minnesota and I firmly believe that we can be an example for the rest of the country.
I yield back my time.