Legislature votes to supoena witnesses in Medicaid review | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Legislature votes to supoena witnesses in Medicaid review

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2015 at 10:37 AM

Benji Hardy reports on this morning's meeting of the legislature's Joint Performance Review Committee:

It voted unanimously to subpoena a federal Medicaid official, Jessica Kahn. Director of the Data and Systems Group (DSG) in the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at CMS.

Rep. Kim Hammer, the chair of the committee, said the committee has planned to discuss issuing subpoenas for two contractors as well — Noridian and Northrup Grumman. Both responded and agreed to appear before the committee in October, thus making the subpoenas unnecessary.

Hammer acknowledged, though, that the subpoena to Kahn carried no real authority to compel her to appear before the committee. "Our authority ends at the state line as far as enforcing it. … But ... this will be the strongest message we can send."

The state Department of Human Services expensive and prolonged and still incomplete effort to get a reliable system in place to process Medicaid applications and income eligibility checks is the focus of committee's work. What the federal government advised DHS during this process could be a check on what state officials have said to date about the problems.

Hammer said, "we have sent numerous requests to CMS, to Jessica Kahn, asking for information. The only response we have received is the comment 'received and reviewing, thank you.' "He provided some emails that he said "show problematic issues" with the way CMS handled the process.

Hammer said it was necessary to have CMS in the room along with the vendors and DHS representatives in order to diagnose what went wrong with the design and implementation of the system. "We’ve spent upwards of $120 million, maybe $200 million, on which the state has a ten percent match, and I’d like to know why they had a problem on the front end, why they didn’t address it sooner rather than later," he said.

I asked him whether he's gone through the governor's office to request that CMS send someone to address the committee, considering the executive branch works closely with CMS. He said he's not made a request through the governor's office itself. Legislators have been left out of the loop, he said: "The previous administration left us out of the process. ... While we want to work with the administrative branch, we want to be independent as well."

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