The news that federal officials have asked Nebraska to repay $2.5 million because the state failed to pursue rebates on prescription medicines should come as no surprise.
This is far from the first time that the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has come under fire from the federal government and state auditors.
Earlier this year, state auditor Mike Foley said DHHS was asked to repay $22 million that was misspent in the state’s failed effort to privatize the child welfare system. In 2012 the state was asked to repay $3.2 million.
And previously the DHHS-run Beatrice State Developmental Center lost some Medicaid funding and was put under special federal oversight because of problems.
So that DHHS ran afoul of the feds again isn’t a surprise.
This time, federal officials said an audit found that the state failed to claim rebates from drug manufacturers between 2009 and 2011. It also said the state failed to obtain information on drugs given in clinics and hospitals.
During that time, the federal government reimbursed Nebraska $27.2 million for the drugs prescribed.
It is understandable why the federal government wants to make sure that Nebraska officials are taking advantage of price breaks and rebates offered by drug manufacturers. This is taxpayers’ money and any savings that can be garnered should be pursued.
DHHS may deserve a break in this case, however. Nebraska is not the only state in which the feds have found problems. A federal report said in 2011 that there were problems with Medicaid drug rebate programs in 31 states.
Nebraska officials say they think they have solved the problems and that going forward the system for getting the rebates should work smoothly.
The fact that so many states have had problems shows that Medicaid officials need to work closely with states to help come up with a process to make sure these rebates, and savings to taxpayers, aren’t overlooked.
Time will tell whether DHHS is really making progress in managing funds and making sure good business and managing processes are being followed.
Plenty of previous audits have shown DHHS failings. Now it’s time for the agency to start showing it has learned lessons and is now being more responsible and accountable to the residents and taxpayers in the state.