LITTLE ROCK — Several Medicaid reform bills was filed Tuesday as lawmakers await release of a special audit of the government health care program.
The audit comes during a legislative session in which legislators are considering whether to expand the state Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Some Republicans in the Legislature have suggested there is a sizable amount of waste, fraud and abuse within the current system.
Gov. Mike Beebe favors expansion that officials say would help make basic health insurance available to an additional 250,000 Arkansans, most of whom work but can’t afford coverage. Republicans in the Legislature have generally resisted any measures that would advance the federal health care law in the state.
Senate Bill 247 by Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, would regulate audit functions, oversight and investigations of the state Medicaid Program. House Bill 1255, an identical bill, was filed in the House by Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs.
SB 248, also by Sanders, would create the Arkansas Medical Assistance Fraud Prevention Program. Westerman filled HB 1256, an identical bill, in the House.
Sanders said SB 247 and HB 1255 are shell bills and details will be added later.
"We’re working on the contents of them," he said. "What we have been working on for a month is making sure that we can do everything that we can do, making sure we’re organized correctly, making sure we’re doing all the things we can do to tackle waste, fraud and abuse in the (Medicaid) system. It’s one of the things often talked about but never rectified."
Sanders said lawmakers have been working with and looking at other states to see how their Medicaid programs are organized internally.
"There is a movement across the country to make sure that the investigative arms are independent and have proper oversight," he said.
He said his bill would not create a new state agency but bring about some some reorganizations within state government.
SB 248 and HB 1256 would create a new Arkansas Medical Assistance Fraud Prevention Program and establish a six-month pilot program in seven counties. Under the program, Medicaid recipients would use a smart card that would contain the recipient’s prescription history and other information, and those participating would be verified by a biometric fingerprint scanner.
Sanders said several other bills designed to reform Medicaid are expected to be filed.
Also filed Tuesday were SB 244 and SB 245 by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy. SB 244 would require all recipients of Medicaid services to provide a copy of a current state income tax return to DHS.
SB 245 would require certain information be included on individual income tax forms to enable the state to track information relevant to individual income taxes under the federal health care law.
Dismang said both bills are shell bills and more details will be added. He said the measures are not intended to be additional burdens on Medicaid recipients because they are required under the federal law.
"We just want to make sure that we have that information available here in Arkansas too," Dismang said.