House Republicans Play Fast and Loose with the Taxpayer’s Money

I oppose turning over responsibility for planning our state’s $2.6 billion Medicaid Managed Care program to an unnamed private group that won’t even have enough time to do the work required.  The sponsor of House Bill 652, the chairman of Finance division 3, stated he filed it because the department of health and human services missed a reporting deadline in July, and he wanted to send them a message.  The sponsor also stated that the department is currently on task and on time to issue the Medicaid Managed Care RFP by this coming Monday, October 17, the first business day following the statutory deadline of October 15.

So not only is this bill unnecessary, but the sponsor has also admitted it is, in his words, “unworkable.” And it truly is unworkable.  It delegates the designing and contracting for a new Medicaid program to a private group, but it cannot actually remove the state’s responsibility to manage Medicaid. There is also no authority for such private delegation of federal Medicaid funding.

Beyond this very basic legal problem, the timing is also completely unworkable. The bill would require that 5 individuals outside of government be appointed to develop an RFP for the state’s $2.6 billion dollar Medicaid program by Monday, October 17.  During these five days, before anyone can even be appointed to the commission, the Senate has to come back, introduce and approve the bill, and the Governor has to sign it.  The department experts have been working on this challenging program design for four months.  It is completely outside the realm of possibility that 5 new people could do it in 5 days.  And please don’t think we could just push back the RFP deadline.  The $32 million dollar savings in the budget depend on the current timing.

The sponsor would probably say this bill is needed as a vehicle to make changes down the road in managed care.  But it won’t be any such vehicle because, it’s a 2011 bill, and the Senate has gone for the year.  This bill will not be enacted; it will simply expire.

House Bill 652 does indeed send a message.  But it’s not the message we want to send.  While there is a potential for significant savings in managed care, the actual message HB 652 will send is that the legislature is willing to risk these savings for an unnecessary, unworkable process and a timeline that is total fiction.

The public has a right to expect better fiscal management from its representatives.

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