Jaw-dropping budgeting errors make headlines in Maine and Ohio

Some recent budgeting mistakes have plenty of taxpayers scratching their heads as the issue shines a spotlight on the need for efficient accounting systems.

"Maine discovers millions in Medicaid overpayments" was the headline in the Bangor Daily News, and the article detailed how Maine's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) paid well over what was budgeted to Maine hospitals and social services organizations - to the tune of $66 million.

Far away from Maine, 9,700 Ohio taxpayers recently were sent letters from the State Department of Taxation saying they would be receiving eye-popping refunds. Huron resident Denise Bossetti's letter stated she would receive $200 million.

Bossetti told the Sandusky Register, "I thought, 'They are going to have a big negative when they cut that check," she said. "We had a big laugh. I kept saying to Charlie, [her boyfriend Charlie Dise] 'What's it like to live with someone with $200 million?' He said, 'Let's wait till we get the check.'"

That was smart advice, because a second letter arrived a week later, according to msnbc.com, blaming the first letter on a software error.

"This has never happened before," Ohio Department of Taxation Spokesman Gary Gudmundson was quoted as saying. "The problem has been fixed."

In Maine, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said the overpayments from MaineCare, the state's Medicaid program, started in September, 2010, when the department switched to a new claims processing system, according to WCSH6 in Portland.

Beginning in mid-March, the DHHS began adjusting payments to hospitals to account for the mistake, the Bangor Daily News reported. MaineCare payments to service providers began rising steadily in February, by nearly $10 million each week. Mayhew indicated that analysts are trying to determine the cause of this increase, but if the trend continues, MaineCare will surpass its annual budget by the end of the fiscal year by $30 million. Last week, Maine Governor Paul LePage submitted a $64.9 million supplemental budget to pay state bills and deal with the budget problems in the DHHS.

Maine Governor Paul LePage issued a statement calling the problems disturbing but not surprising. "We inherited a big mess, but we are going to get it fixed and find solutions that work for consumers, providers, and the taxpayers," he said.

On the Bangor Daily News web site, 97 readers voiced opinions and often frustration in the comment section of the article on this issue. One reader posted a long comment that included: "...the accounting systems are such a mess!!!" Eighty-four readers liked this comment.
 

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