AUGUSTA, Maine – A slate of bills aimed at reducing abuse and fraud of Maine’s welfare and public health care programs was set for public hearings Tuesday before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

The legislation includes three bills offered by Republican Gov. Paul LePage aimed at restricting the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer cash-assistance cards and requiring up-front job searches for welfare applicants.

The fourth bill on the docket, offered by Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, would require the state to annually report the results of investigations and prosecutions that stem from both recipient and provider-based fraud in the state’s welfare and Medicaid programs.

Gattine’s measure requires an accounting of the costs to the state of the investigation along with a summary of the financial recoveries made after prosecution or settlement.

While Republicans have recently focused their sights on abuse by those receiving welfare and health care benefits, Democrats say the “big fish” that are costing the state more in fraud and abuse are health care providers and pharmaceutical makers that misbill, overbill and mislabel prescription drugs paid for with public funds.

Both Democrats and Republicans have said no level of fraud should be tolerated within the state’s public benefit programs.

During a news conference at the State House on Monday, LePage said he wanted the state to pursue fraud on all levels. He also said he would be harder on cases of provider or “corporate” fraud than he would be on consumer-level fraud.

The committee is set to meet at 1 p.m.

Watch for updates.

Scott Thistle

Scott Thistle is the State Politics Editor for the Lewiston Sun Journal. He has covered federal, state and local politics in Maine for nearly two decades.