Thursday, May 7, 2015

Health task force selects Stephen Group as consultant

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 4:49 PM

The Health Reform Legislative Task Force today voted to select the Stephen Group (of Manchester, New Hampshire) as its consultant as the task force attempts to develop a recommendation for the future of the private option and health care in Arkansas. 

The Stephen Group and Boston-based Public Consulting Group were the two finalists, with the Stephen Group winning the endorsement from the task force in a close 9-to-7. The Legislative Council still has to approve the choice at its May 15 meeting. 

The Stephen Group's proposal was a $1,081,500 contract; PCG's bid $2,207,390.

PCG was considered something of a favorite. The lower price tag may have helped the Stephen Group. Rep. David Meeks also touted the company's ability to do an audit of the entire Medicaid rolls. 

PCG had previously prepared a 68-page report for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace (AHIM), at the request of private option architect Sen. David Sanders, examining potential options for the state under 1332 waivers, a feature of the federal Affordable Care Act which become available in 2017 and would allow states additional flexibility to waive certain rules or requirements of the federal health care law. The report serves as something of a road map of options for pro-private option Republicans, who have advocated for continuing the expanded coverage and using 1332 waivers to impose additional changes both to the private option and the overall health care system in the state. Arguably, that might have made PCG the preferred choice of lawmakers who are generally supportive of the private option framework, but it's hard to read the tea leaves when companies are vying for a big contract. 

You can see proposals from all six contenders, including the Stephen Group, here. It's more than 3,000 pages in all and I'll confess that I barely even skimmed, but I'm going to take a look back at the Stephen Group's proposal to see if there's anything else worth noting. 

UPDATE: All of the Democrats on the task force voted for Stephen Group, along with some anti-private-option GOPs: Farrer, Meeks, Hammer, Rice, Cooper. Strange bedfellows. Perhaps the Ds just went with the lower-cost option (or against the GOP leadership on the task force).

The chairs, Sen. Jim Hendren (who voted against the private option) and Rep. Charlie Collins (who voted for it) voted for PCG. Vice-chair Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (who voted against the private option did as well. The other PCG votes were Rapert (voted for PO), Gray (first termer), Boyd (first termer), and Sanders. Sanders is something of a lightning rod since he has been one of the public faces of the private option, so some of the GOPs who voted for the Stephen Group may have wanted to vote the anti-Sanders line. 

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