Friday, September 18, 2015

Richard Wyatt, top Human Services official, resigns amid Medicaid probe

Posted By on Fri, Sep 18, 2015 at 9:03 AM

RICHARD WYATT
  • RICHARD WYATT
Richard Wyatt, the chief information officer at the state Department of Human Services, submitted his resignation Thursday, effective Oct. 30.

Wyatt has been the point man at the department in explaining exploding costs, money spent on non-functioning systems and other problems in the computerized system for enrolling people in Medicaid and checking the eligibility of those receiving health insurance coverage under the private option expansion of Medicaid.

Wyatt has been grilled by legislative committees over his agency's work and a decision this week to attempt to subpoena testimony from federal officials was widely understood to be a probe aimed at checking events as described by Wyatt against the view of the federal agency that supervises Medicaid and Medicare payments to the states.

At a meeting earlier this week, legislators discussed Wyatt's failure to notify the federal officials of a change in software providers and Wyatt's decision to bypass bidders for the contract in selecting a new provider. Testimony differed on whether Wyatt had been told he could not negotiate with the bidders.

In confirming my tip on the departure, DHS spokesman Amy Webb said:

Yes, Dick is leaving. During a conversation earlier this week, John told Dick that he felt like now was a good time for a change. It’s been a difficult few months and this will give us a fresh start on the project. Dick agreed to stay on until Oct.30 to help ease any transition, which we greatly appreciate.

Here’s an email that John sent to Dick and his staff yesterday that can stand as John’s statement.

You have led the Department through very challenging times and have a long list of innovations and accomplishments to your credit, not the least of which was quickly standing up a system that could offer health coverage to 200,000 low income adults. We are all indebted to you for your commitment and expertise.

Thanks for being a true public servant!

And thanks for agreeing to stay on for a while to help us through the transition.

I've sought a comment from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and asked whether he encouraged the development.

UPDATE: A statement from J.R. Davis, the governor's spokesman:

It is common practice for agency directors to make the Governor’s office aware of any personnel changes, and that was the case in this situation. The Governor has confidence in his agency directors to make these decisions, and all other inquiries into this matter should be directed to DHS.

PS — The legislature's Joint Audit committee is questioning DHS officials this morning about the extensive report issued earlier on software problems. (Find a PDF at the link, which is to Legislative Audit homepage.) Not a happy morning. In summary, the audit found:a failure to hold vendors accountable, inappropriate use of "sole source," or no-bid contracts, improper cooperative purchase agreements, a lack of disclosure to legislature and non-compliance with rules, and poor cost containment in use of contract labor.

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