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Medicaid spends $500,000 on furniture for CARES

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

The waste in Alabama Medicaid’s CARES program continues to grow.

Sources within the Medicaid agency have told APR that new CARES director Marty Redden has been trying to sell off thousands of dollars of office furniture bought during a 2015 spending spree authorized by the Office of Information Technologies (OIT).

All told, records from Alabama’s Open Checkbook – the online data site that keeps track of all state government expenditures – shows Medicaid paid more than $500,000 for office furniture in 2015 and early 2016.

Redden, the former IT Director for Alabama Department of Public Health, is tasked with cleaning up CARES, which to date has spent over $40 million in taxpayer dollars to build a system that allows recipients of federal and state assistance to apply for benefits. Government programs such as ADPH’s ALLKids (Alabama’s Subsidized Health Insurance Program), Medicaid’s SOBRA, PlanFirst and Elderly and Disabled services, DHR’s SNAP (Food Assistance) and TANG Subsidized Child Care fall under the CARES project.

One problem remains for the multimillion dollar software initiative: it doesn’t work. Due to the mounting costs and OIT’S  continued failure to deliver on the promised programs, the State’s Medicaid agency has pulled out of the project.

When contacted Monday about the purchases and attempts to sell off the furniture, a spokesperson for Medicaid responded to say only that the office wasn’t selling furniture.

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“Medicaid had no plans to sell any furniture,” spokeswoman Robin Rawls said. “Medicaid is taking inventory of the property and assessing those items to repurpose to other areas in the agency to minimize any future purchases.”

However, a source within the agency said efforts were being made to sell the furniture as late as last week.

Regardless, when asked to comment on the agency’s half-million dollar purchase, there was no reply.

State records show Medicaid, on behalf of CARES, spent $170,000 in February 2015 with Steelcase Inc., an office furniture company. It spent another $64,000 with the same company over the summer of 2015.

Between October 2014 and May 2015, Medicaid also spent another $133,000 with a company named Groupe Lacasse, which designs and sells ergonomic office furniture. It spent another $45,000 with the same company in January 2016.

In early April, the agency spent another $47,000 with Paoli LLC., a wood furniture company. It spent another $9,000 with Paoli in August 2015.

In March 2016, there was another $15,000 spent with Allsteel Inc. and $12,000 more spent Reimers Furniture through early 2016.

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In total, Medicaid’s expenditures for office furniture jumped from a normal $25,000-$35,000 annually from 2012 through 2014 to more than $450,000 in Fiscal Year 2015.

The CARES program has been plagued from the start.

Last summer, APR reported that the program had blown through more than $20 million in federal and state money since its implementation in 2014 but had yet to establish itself as a working, viable system. That figure has doubled since APR’s initial report.

A management assessment completed in 2016 labeled the project “toxic” and found that much of the software purchased with it was incompatible.

Under the guidance of Joanne Hale a Gov. Robert Bentley appointee, OIT has overseen the failed implementation of several software systems including STAARS, a statewide accounting system, and eSTART, a time and attendance system.

Josh Moon
Written By

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.