Commentary

DHHS Error Rates Story Blown Out of Proportion

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Recently, the Bangor Daily News (BDN) published this article which describes the supposed “problem” of errors by the Maine Department and Health and Human Services (DHHS). The article highlighted the fact that the DHHS over-payed nearly $2 million to food stamp recipients last year, and insinuated that errors have been increasing in frequency and severity over the past few years.

However, the BDN article omitted many critical facts and much analysis, meaning it amounts to nothing more than a biased hit-piece designed to fool readers and slam DHHS.

While $2 million may sound like a significant amount of money to be erroneously distributed to recipients, it’s important to put this amount of money into context (which the BDN did not do). DHHS disperses nearly $300 million per year in food stamp benefits – meaning this error rate is roughly 0.66%.

To put this into perspective, federal agencies have been celebrating the fact that their error rate is now just 4.39%, which is over six times the error rate of the Maine DHHS.

This is an astounding accomplishment for the DHHS, and a true testament to their hard work at moving Maine from poverty to prosperity. DHHS, under the leadership of Commissioner Mayhew, now has a strong reputation of helping our needy individuals and families and making a remarkable effort to provide assistance to those who deserve our help.

A clear sign of that is how they handle the re-collecting of funds that have been erroneously distributed to food stamp recipients. The BDN article noted that that DHHS offers payment plans or reductions in payments for individuals to pay back these benefit.

But it did not go into great detail into how these payments work. If an individual has received too many benefits, and is still continuing receiving benefits, the remedy is rather simple. DHHS can reduce their future payments by $10 (yes, just $10) or 10% of their current benefits, whichever is greater.

If a household has received a large amount of money in error, the balance of that overpayment can even be reduced by as much as 40%. And if the individual or family is no longer receiving benefits, DHHS will work with them to establish a flexible payment plan that does not create a hardship or difficulty.

Furthermore, this is not an example of DHHS being “mean-spirited or very callous” as was said in the BDN article. In fact, DHHS is required by the federal government to identify and collect overpayments to welfare recipients.

And to put this $2 million into more context, consider just how much money the State of Maine collects each year. Thanks to big-spending liberals in Augusta, Maine collected nearly $1.2 billion from the Sales and Use Tax in FY 2015. It collected over $1.4 billion from the individual income tax and over $38 million from the death tax.

So while the BDN article says that re-collecting this $2 million is an “egregious offense against the poor and elderly,” they have failed to take on any of these other ways that Maine’s poor and elderly are victimized, or that hardworking Mainers have their money taken away from them by bureaucrats in Augusta.

Give me a break.

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