Today’s joint Senate hearing for HHS Finance, Policy and Reform was another exercise in frustration. DHS and HHS problems are continuing to unfold.
Today the public and the legislature was introduced to the new Commissioner, Jodi Harpstead, who is a former CEO of Lutheran Social Services. Ms. Harpstead’s testimony was a bit more positive and constructive than her predecessor, Interim Commissioner Pam Wheelock who in her short tenure managed to deflect or demean most of the tough questions aimed her way. Wheelock was a short termer, and she knew it. Ms. Harpstead will have to face these legislators next year when whatever solutions to fix HHS and DHS are proposed.
In today’s hearing, added to fraud and mismanagement covered in last hearing, HHS/DHS had recently picked a new fight with the counties by overriding their decisions in the procurement process for picking the Health Organizations that manage their Minnesota Care and Medical Assistance programs. A large number of counties were affected until DHS/HHS decided to suspend the procurement process and leave things as they are for another year. The committee took testimony from workers and representatives from the HMOs affected. Whether or not DHS/HSS choices were good ones was not at issue. The discussion focused on who has the power to make these choices. Expect more on this topic next session.
The fraud topic, (at many different points in the system) the overpayment of the $48 Million to two tribes that the Federal Government wants back and the possible breakup of HHS into separate agencies were touched on only briefly in this hearing.
One of the best moments in the hearing came when HHS Finance and Policy Chair Michelle Benson called out yet another case of high handed outside of their authority decision-making on the part of DHS bureaucrats. Unfortunately, it's not on YouTube but it is at the Minnesota Senate site around the 2:17:37.