Federal officials have informed the LePage administration that the state is improperly using federal funds at the Riverview Psychiatric Center. That puts the state on the hook for more than $51 million.
The letter from regional director of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Richard McGreal says the state owes over $51 million to the federal government for funds that were improperly used to help pay for the operations of the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.
McGreal says the state should have stopped drawing down federal funds back in Oct. 2013, after two surveys found that the state was improperly mixing patients with different needs in the same unit and the facility was decertified.
Gov. Paul LePage issued a statement calling the demand a “financial tsunami” that he blamed on the Legislature. Sen. Jim Hamper of Oxford, the Republican co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee, says he’s still assessing the letter and whether the state can appeal the decision.
“Well, has the potential for being a big problem. In the short run, I think we can deal with it as far as the biennial,” he says.
That’s the two-year state budget now under consideration. Hamper says the letter indicates the state is continuing to draw down federal funds for the Center and filling that shortage with state dollars could also cost about $28 million that would have to be added to bill.
The Democratic co-chair of the committee, Westbrook Rep. Drew Gattine, says it’s too early to say what the committee will do.
“There’s a lot that I really don’t understand yet about this letter and what the ramifications are and what the merits of what any appeal might be that the state might have,” he says.
In his statement, LePage said the Legislature should set aside the $51 million in the budget to meet the obligation identified by CMS. The federal agency says the state could keep the funds pending appeal, but will have to pay it back with interest if it loses.
Hamper says it’s important that as lawmakers struggle to reach a budget agreement, they solve this problem.
“Are we potentially kicking the can to potentially another Legislature, or will it come to haunt us next year. My crystal ball is over there,” he says.
It’s not clear when the committee will publicly discuss the pending Riverview issue and how it will be solved under the two year budget that’s under negotiation.
This story was originally published on June 8, 2017 at 5:31 p.m.