The legislature's Joint Performance Review Committee h
as scheduled a decision Wednesday morning on whether to use its subpoena power — for witnesses, documents and records — in reviewing the Department of Human Services' contracts for Medicaid eligibility and enrollment.
If subpoena power is voted, it will be used for an Oct. 2 meeting.
I believe this represents a ratcheting up of already intense legislative unhappiness over the Medicaid mess.
DHS — helped by Gov. Asa Hutchinson's initial insistence on an illegal 10-day response window — made a mess of the required income eligibility checks of people who qualified for the expanded Medicaid coverage under the private option. Tens of thousands have lost coverage as a result.
Then it was learned that the state — while holding working poor to an unreasonable standard of compliance — was badly missing compliance rules it was supposed to meet — a 45-day period to complete review of initial applications for Medicaid coverage. The state's failure left more than 30,000 people who likely deserved medical coverage without it. Mothers of newborns were particularly victimized. Health care providers have seen unpaid bills mount.
Then there's the matter of the $30 million worth of tech upgrades on the state's enrollment system that don't work.
These contracts remain at the center of the legislature's target. Rolling out subpoenas is a signal of a rough ride to come. Majorities of both the House and Senate representatives on Joint Performance will be necessary for approval.
I think it's worth noting that Arkansas spent this money, but all of it flowed from the federal government. It seems likely that the spending — perhaps misspending — of millions in federal money could become a subject for review at a level beyond an Arkansas legislative committee. And probably should.