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I understand firsthand that life can be quite a journey.

For some along that journey, a helping hand is needed.

Hello. This is Governor Paul LePage.

Welfare should be there when anyone hits a devastating bump in the road. But it is not, nor was it ever intended to be, the final destination. Sadly, that is becoming a reality for more Maine families.

My goal is to ensure that the transition does not become a final destination and that welfare becomes a brief stop toward a better life.

Unfortunately, right now there are some people who take advantage of the system.

Recently, the Fraud and Abuse Prevention Team was formed to analyze current systems and existing resources available within state government to deter fraud before it happens. The team will also assure that all illegal activities within Medicaid, Food Supplement, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other programs are being properly investigated.

As soon as I made this announcement Representative Peggy Rotundo, of Lewiston, speaking on behalf of the loyal opposition came out swinging saying that this team is just an example of governing by anecdote as opposed to governing based on data and good research.

Here are the facts: welfare fraud complaints are skyrocketing. The DHHS fraud hotline has received more than eleven-hundred calls so far this year. Complaints are on track to double from 2010.

In addition, I have personally received dozens of letters from Mainers sharing their frustrations about people they know who allegedly are abusing State benefits.

There is no doubt that we have a problem. And we are on the road to fix it.

The Fraud and Abuse Prevention team consists of nine members from DHHS’ Division of Audit and Office for Family Independence. Members from the Financial Crimes & Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office are also part of the group. Their focus is on both recipient fraud and MaineCare provider fraud.

Current initiatives include: • strengthening the recipient fraud hotline in DHHS; • improving the training for frontline staff to identify fraud; • and reviewing federal and state laws that may make it difficult to remove recipients from benefit programs when they violate program rules.

From January 2010 to March of this year, prosecution of MaineCare provider fraud by the attorney general’s office resulted in six convictions, more than $4 million in restitution ordered and, in one case, 42 months of jail time for the perpetrator. During that time there were 15 civil fraud settlements with over $5 million in state dollars recovered.

This is not anecdotal information. These are cases where hard-earned tax dollars are being used inappropriately and it is wrong.

I urge people who suspect fraud to call the DHHS hotline at 1-800-442-6003. That’s 1-800-442-6003. You may remain anonymous. However, you must be willing to give the name of the person or provider alleged to have committed the fraudulent act. Again, that’s 1-800-442-6003.

Thank you for your time this week. Ann and I hope you enjoy the weekend.

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