Gov. Walz confirms DHS has overpaid tribal groups $25M since 2014

The overpayment was revealed by the Pioneer Press on Thursday.
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Gov. Tim Walz has confirmed a media report that the Minnesota Department of Human Service has been overpaying two tribal bands to the tune of more than $25 million.

The overpayment was first reported on Thursday by the Pioneer Press, which obtained memos that the DHS had overpaid the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and White Earth Nation $25.3 million for substance abuse therapy treatments covered under Medicaid.

The newspaper notes that the DHS "reimbursed tribes for in-person visits with health care providers when the patients were actually self-administering the medication at home."

In a statement sent to BMTN, Gov. Walz revealed that this overpayment stretches back 5 years to the time of the Dayton administration, which he says was uncovered by his administration after he took office in January.

"When I first took office, I directed my new commissioners to surface issues within their agencies. The Department of Human Services uncovered this problem which had been going on for the last five years.

"My Administration finds problems, and we deal with them. That is why we are confronting this issue head on. As of May, the payment structure was corrected, and the problem was stopped. We are now taking a deeper dive to figure out the root of this issue and help ensure nothing like it happens again."

Walz says the Office of the Legislative Auditor will be conducting an investigation into the overpayment.

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White Earth Nation also released a statement on Thursday, criticizing the DHS and Walz Administration for a "lack of meaningful consultation" regarding the DHS payments.

It also says that since the payment structure was created by the DHS and the State, there should be "shared responsibility" for the overpayments.

It adds that some of its officers who were responsible for billing within the tribe have resigned amid audits it commissioned in 2018 and 2019, while its Behavioral Health Director has been placed on investigative suspension.

But in a statement, acting DHS commissioner Pam Wheelock said the department "immediately provided clarification on bill" after learning of the overpayment in spring.

"DHS is now determining the estimated amount over payment, has informed the tribes, and is working with them to determine the final amount.

"DHS is reviewing internal processes and policy guidance to determine how the overpayments occurred, what role DHS may have played and how to prevent them from happening again."

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