13 investigation: MaineCare mailing mess
AUGUSTA (WGME) - A CBS 13 Waste Watch investigation has discovered a glitch in the state's computer system that sends out mailings for people on MaineCare. Many viewers have contacted us saying they're getting multiple copies of the same letters, or sometimes conflicting letters, creating confusion and wasting taxpayer money.
Debra Kramlich sits with a big pile of mail she's gotten from the Department of Health and Human Services. She manages everything to do with her parents health care, so all the mail from DHHS comes to her.
"Instead of four pieces of paper, I got 21 pieces of paper - duplicates, triplicates, and one page I have four copies of. If you multiply this by however many people are receiving MaineCare, that's a huge waste," Kramlich said.
DHHS says it wasn't aware of any mailing problems until we contacted the department and doesn't know how widespread the problem is.
In response, CBS 13 got this statement from spokesperson John Martin:
The Maine Office for Family Independence sends out more than 640,000 letters annually and the accuracy rate of these mailings is high. We recognize the need to improve our automated mailing system and understand that our letters can be confusing to some of our clients.
We are working on ways to simplify the letters and are making updates to the automated system in order to improve performance.
We ask any client who receives a mailing from DHHS that they do not understand to contact their local DHHS Office so that our staff can work with them to ensure that they receive the answers they need.
But there are also other letters about Kramlich's father's MaineCare eligibility which came the same day. One letter says MaineCare has been approved for her father, another one says after reviewing eligibility, he doesn't qualify for MaineCare coverage.
"It seems very inefficient, wasteful of taxpayer money, and causes undue stress for people who can least afford that kind of stress," Kramlich said.
As a nurse and professor, Kramlich is familiar with the system and knows how to sort through of all this, but she's concerned for people who don't. One woman wrote to us about her benefits this week after getting conflicting letters.
"These 2 conflict and make it very hard to determine what's actually going on. For someone who is not yet finished cancer treatments, this is not helpful to have to worry about this," the viewer wrote.
We took all the letters to state Senator Margaret Craven (D) who leads the legislature's Health and Human Services committee.
"There are a lot of problems with the computer system. One of the problems: we have two different computer systems, and they don't talk to each other well about things like eligibility," Sen. Craven said.
She said she's very frustrated with what she sees an inefficient system.
"We need to ask the department to come and to talk to us and see. It's always very, very frustrating seeing money go to waste and people being scared as well," Craven told us.