Legislative Council approves Health Reform Task Force consulting contract | Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 15, 2015

Legislative Council approves Health Reform Task Force consulting contract

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 9:47 AM

We've been reporting all week on the hot mess in the Health Reform Legislative Task Force over hiring a consultant. After plenty of fireworks in yesterday's meeting of the Legislative Council Executive Subcommittee, it sounds like today's meeting of the full Council was relatively drama-free. 

Legislative Council approved the contract for the million-dollar contract for the Stephen Group on a voice vote. The co-chairs of the task force, Sen. Jim Hendren and Rep. Charlie Collins, have expressed concerns about whether the Stephen Group's proposal can adequately meet the demands of the contract (the task force chose the Stephen Group over the other finalist in a 9-7 vote). 

Hendren suggested yesterday that Collins would run through the same routine today, pushing the Council not to approve any contract and giving the task force more time to come up with a plan with broader consensus. Instead, Sen. Terry Rice, one of the task force members who voted for the Stephen Group, gave a straightforward presentation of the contract and it was approved after brief discussion. Apparently Collins realized that continuing to try to block the contract was not a smooth political move at this point. It was clear that such an effort would be doomed, and frankly it was obvious to anyone in the room yesterday that a repeat performance today would be an embarrassing black eye for the task force. 

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam suggested that the task force look at a concurrent contract to address anything not covered by the Stephen Group's proposal (that could theoretically be a separate contract with another firm, an additional contract with Stephen, or some sort of partnership). Hendren hinted yesterday that something like this could be a possibility. There would likely be some support on the task force for that, but it won't be easy: another contract would require spending more money, and it would require repairing major rifts on the task force. 

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