Arkansas Health Care Task Force Hires Consultant For $1 Million-Plus

May 7, 2015

The Health Reform Legislative Task Force, the legislative panel considering changes to the state’s Medicaid system, voted to hire New Hampshire-based The Stephen Group for a maximum $1,036,500 contract to help the task force make its recommendations.

The firm must present a report to legislators by Oct. 1 and then will serve as a consultant through the task force’s existence through the end of 2016.

The Arkansas Legislative Council, which is a group of legislators who act as a quasi-Legislature between sessions, must approve the expenditure.

The task force was formed this past session as part of a compromise proposal by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to resolve the impasse over the Medicaid private option, which uses Medicaid dollars to purchase private insurance for lower-income individuals. Legislators agreed to continue funding the private option for two years as the task force studies overall Medicaid reform, including the private option. Its first recommendation is due by the end of the year, and the next by the end of next year.

The task force made its selection after two days of interviews and 3,100 pages of requests for proposals from six competing firms. Four were given the opportunity to testify over two days: The Stephen Group; Boston-based Public Consulting Group; Michigan-based Health Management Associates; and Chicago-based Navigant Consulting.

The Stephen Group and Public Consulting Group were the finalists. The vote was 9-7. Public Consulting Group’s maximum bid was a little more than $2.2 million.

After the vote, Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, said he voted for The Stephen Group because of its experience and direction and because the firm did not have any other contracts in Arkansas. “They seemed to want to do more with the audit, to actually … look at everybody and actually see potentially whether there’s enrollment issues, whether they live in and out of state, whereas the other groups were all (saying), ‘We’re just going to do a sample of it,’” he said.

The contract with The Stephen Group will fund 18 positions – with the highest paid, the supervisor/project manager, earning $290 an hour, and eight senior consultants earning $250 per hour.

Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, said he was pleased with the results. He voted for Public Consulting Group because he thought it had the most proven capability to do the job, but he also thought The Stephen Group was the clearest in its plans to audit the enrollment rolls.

“If you identify 4,000 people that are ineligible, and sure enough they’re not really eligible, you’ve saved the state millions of dollars,” he said.

Two members were not present for the final vote but were allowed to cast ballots. Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, was present for most of the testimony. Sen Jason Rapert, R-Conway, was out of state. Hendren said Rapert had access to the requests for proposal and that no one objected to Murdock and him participating.

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