Legislators may hire consultant to assist on Medicaid issues


LITTLE ROCK — Legislative leaders are discussing hiring a consultant to assist the General Assembly in addressing issues related to the state Medicaid program, House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said Monday.

Westerman said lawmakers do not want to rely solely on the state Department of Human Services for information about the program.

“I think we’d like to have another set of eyes to look at DHS rather than us being told by DHS what’s going on in DHS,” he said.

The consultant would be paid with funds from the budget of either the House and Senate or the state Bureau of Legislative Research, Westerman said. He said an announcement of the hire likely would come later this week.

Lawmakers are deciding whether to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act and how to address a projected shortfall in the program.

Gov. Mike Beebe supports expansion, which would be mostly funded by the federal government, and has proposed using a combination of general revenue, surplus funds, efficiency measures and cuts in services to address the shortfall. Republican leaders in the House and Senate have been critical of expansion and have said they are interested in addressing waste, fraud and abuse in the program.