Arkansas Lawmakers Subpoena Federal Official In Medicaid Review

Sep 16, 2015

State Representative Kim Hammer (R-Benton).
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

An Arkansas legislative committee voted unanimously Wednesday to subpoena a federal Medicaid official about the state’s Medicaid enrollment and eligibility systems contracts. 

At a $200 million price tag a new computerized system, replacing a 25 year old process, has nearly doubled in cost since the project began in 2013. Two private contractors, Northrop Grumman and Noridian, were also initial targets of the Joint Performance Review Committee. 

However, the committee’s chair state Representative Kim Hammer (R-Benton) said both companies have since indicated a level of cooperation.

“The chairs have been approached by Northrop Grumman, of which we have a letter of commitment that they are willing to attend without the necessity of a subpoena. We have been contacted by Noridian, we had previous conversations with the CEO who had reluctancy [sic] of coming into the state but is agreeable to come and to make themselves available,” Hammer said. “So the original intent of issuing subpoenas is no longer needed.”

Hammer expressed disappointment with communication from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, particularly from Data and Systems Group Director Jessica Kahn.

“We have sent numerous requests to CMS, to Jessica Kahn, asking for information. The only response we have gotten from her specifically is the comment, ‘received and reviewed, thank you.’ That was back on July 13, 2015,” he said.

The authority of the subpoena to compel Kahn’s testimony is limited, acknowledges Hammer.

“Our ability to enforce her coming is limited to the state line. Unfortunately we don’t’ have that capability to force her or hold her accountable. I’d hope that with Noridian and Northrop Grumman voluntarily being willing to common in the private sector I’d expect nothing less out of the federal government to come and make themselves available too,” he said.

The governor’s office has previously visited with CMS officials over other issues and has generally characterized its relationship as communicative and effective. Hammer said he has not reached out to the governor’s office over CMS communication with his committee.

“Have we directly approached them and asked them to reach out to CMs and have them come, I can’t honestly say that conversation has taken place.”

While Hammer welcomes any assistance from the governor he stressed the importance of having a legislative channel of communication with CMS, “We have to maintain a certain degree of independence ourselves. This is our effort as legislators to have that direct access ourselves.”