Paul LePage warns feds want $51 million spent on Riverview returned

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This aerial photo shows the Riverview Psychiatric Center on the banks of the Kennebec River in Augusta. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

AUGUSTA (AP) — Maine’s Republican governor is warning that lawmakers tasked with finding tens of millions of dollars to fund a voter-approved Medicaid expansion must also consider the potential return of $51 million in federal funding spent on the operation of a state psychiatric center.

Gov. Paul LePage recently told The Associated Press he expects federal officials will soon send a letter to Maine seeking action on the return of the $51 million spent on the Riverview Psychiatric Center. Federal officials demanded the return in June, and Maine has asked federal regulators to reconsider that decision.

“They want their money,” LePage said.

Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokesman Aaron Smith said the agency is working with the state and reviewing the request. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Emily Spencer said the state hasn’t heard back yet.

LePage has blamed lawmakers for continuing to spend federal funds despite concerns raised since the hospital was decertified in 2013.

The federal agency decertified Riverview after inspections found stun guns and handcuffs were used on patients. Later inspections found more problems that included medication errors and paperwork problems.

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“Our administration warned the Legislature over and over that action needed to be taken and those warnings were ignored. Now, we are faced with a financial tsunami,” LePage said.

Maine has been working to regain certification of Riverview but a federal judge ruled in 2015 that the state missed the deadline for appealing that decision.

Meanwhile, Maine faces another hefty, uncertain price tag — the cost of voter-approved Medicaid expansion to up to 90,000 citizens. The state faces an April deadline for submitting a Medicaid expansion plan to the federal government.

But it’s still unclear exactly how much Medicaid expansion will cost and save the state, or how and when the state will pay for its share of expansion.

LePage has been casting doubt on a nonpartisan legislative office’s estimate that Medicaid expansion will cost $54.5 million annually after projected savings by 2021.

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