There’s never a good time to have a scandal in a gubernatorial administration, but the one that’s apparently hitting Gov. Tim Pawlenty is especially ill-timed.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press, citing sources, says an employee of the Department of Human Services allegedly stole $1 million from the Medical Assistance program for the employee’s personal use.
How does one person in an agency of 7,200 people steal a million dollars by him or herself without anyone noticing until now?
According to the paper, that question — and any others — will go unanswered:
Terry Gunderson, a spokeswoman at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said no information about any ongoing investigation would be made public.
Now, about that timing thing. The state just went hat in hand to the federal government (most of the money that funds the state’s Medical Assistance program is federal money), asking for more time to explain why Minnesota shouldn’t lose $130 million in federal assistance to provide health insurance to low income adults.
Federal Medicaid money is normally targeted for kids, but Minnesota already insures low-income kids through the state-funded (with a tax on health care providers) MinnesotaCare program, so Minnesota uses the money to insure their parents, by virtue of a waiver from the federal government allowing it to do so. The feds are threatening to eliminate the waiver.
Minnesota isn’t the onliy one fighting this kind of battle. The feds are also threatening to strip the cash from Massachusetts, which also has a state-subsidized health care program. That state is trotting out a heavy hitter in the battle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is Kennedy, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions,
It’s been that kind of political year; Ted Kennedy may turn out to be Tim Pawlenty’s best friend on the issue.
Update 1:48 p.m. By way of MPR’s Tim Pugmire at the Capitol we have an update from Sen. Linda Berglin:
Berglin, who heads the committee that oversees state health care funding, said the embezzlement stretches back more than six years and began before current anti-fraud measures were put in place.
Berglin said she suspected that the employee invented a fictional health care provider to skim payments.
“If this would have happened today it would have been discovered right away,” said Berglin, who heads the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division. “The systems that are in place today were not in place when this began.”
Berglin said she didn’t know how the fraud was detected, but called it a huge breach of trust.
So now the question isn’t when did it begin, but when did it end?