1. PAUL - The Minnesota Department of Human Services does a decent job overseeing who gets public medical assistance, but improving that work could mean big savings for the state.

That’s the finding of the Office of the Legislative Auditor, a government watchdog, which released an examination of the department’s compliance in its medical assistance for adults without children program.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

In 2017, Minnesota spent about $1.8 billion on medical assistance for 297,000 adults without children, the report found. The review found the department generally complied with state rules when providing this assistance, but in a some cases benefits were provided to people who were ineligible.

The audit found three ways benefits were provided incorrectly:

  • A person who was initially eligible did not report new circumstances, such as a change in income of residency, that would have affected eligibility.
  • The department paid a managed care organization for someone who was no longer eligible because of a clerical error or problems with state computer systems. In one case an inmate continued to be enrolled.
  • A computer error placed someone in the wrong program.

To remedy these types of problems, the audit recommends the department review people’s eligibility more often and process data more quickly to ensure ineligible people are not receiving medical assistance.

Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said in a statement that she was pleased with the report’s findings. She noted that it was an improvement over past examinations of the department’s oversight.

“Our priority is to ensure that qualifying Minnesotans have access to the health care coverage they need,” Piper said.

In a letter from Piper included in the report, the commissioner noted the department was implementing a “periodic data matching” system that would check eligibility more quickly. She added that the department is working with the state information technology department to improve other computer systems related to medical assistance programs.

In a statement, Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, who chairs the House health and human services committee, said the 6 percent error rate found in the audit was too high and meant more than $100 million in taxpayer money was misspent. He added that improved oversight systems should have been implemented earlier.

“The Department of Human Services’ continued unwillingness, or inability, to implement fraud prevention efforts that are required under state law is an affront to all Minnesota taxpayers,” the statement said. “Taxpayers deserve better.”