Bill to create Medicaid inspector clears Senate

LITTLE ROCK — Legislation that would create a new state office to investigate suspected Medicaid fraud cleared the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 914 passed 31-0 and goes to the House.

The bill, sponsored jointly by Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, would establish an Office of Medicaid Inspector General with the task of rooting out fraud in the government health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled.

The office would be part of the governor’s office under the bill. Its director would be a gubernatorial appointee, confirmed by the state Senate, and would serve at the will of the governor.

The new office would be authorized to hire a staff to investigate suspected Medicaid fraud and abuse, working in conjunction with the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit as well as U.S. attorneys and state prosecutors.

Creation of the new office would mean consolidating the staff and “other Medicaid fraud detection, prevention and recovery functions from the relevant governmental entities into a single office,” according to the bill.

SB 914 also would create the new criminal offense of health care fraud and direct the Office of Information Technology to test and strengthen the Medicaid payment system to detect fraud, improve accountability and automate processes for the review of claims.

Republican legislators have pushed for reform of the current Medicaid program this session as Gov. Mike Beebe and legislative leaders attempt to hammer out a deal to use federal dollars to subsidize health insurance for Arkansas’ working poor through the state’s health exchange as an alternative to expanding the Medicaid program.