Our View: Put another $2 million on DHS’s tab

There is not a week that goes by that we don’t hear about another costly screw up involving the seemingly troubled Arkansas Department of Human Services, better known as DHS. This time it is costing us, the taxpayers, another $2 million to hire a contractor to track down Medicaid beneficiaries, provide them with a form to show they have health insurance and run a call center and website. It was just last Friday that legislators suspended their rules and approved the contract to set up the system by Jan. 1 to make sure these recipients of free or subsidized health care under Arkansas faulty version of Obamacare so they can prove to the Internal Revenue Service they have health coverage. We’re told this time DHS will be handing over the $2 million to a Tennessee-based Deloitte Consulting Service under a sole-source contract. As we are all aware, the IRS is requiring every taxpayer to file a form to verify health insurance coverage. Without filling out the tax forms, Arkansans on Medicaid could incur a penalty under Obamacare also known as Affordable Care Act for lacking insurance. Let’s remember that back in June, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said his office and the Department of Information Systems would review any technology contracts before any bids are solicited. Additionally, the office reviews all contracts with values greater than $1 million. This all came about after lawmakers questioned the state’s payment to CH Mack Inc. to provide an electronic tool to evaluate developmental-disability clients that the company was supposed to develop for $2.14 million by 2012. The DHS originally contracted with the company way back in 2011. The department extended the contract and asked for additional services. By 2014, CH Mack had been paid a whopping $4.98 million but had not developed a suitable tool. CH Mack has since changed its name to AssureCare. Now then, CoCentrix has taken over development of the tool and has been paid at least $9 million by the state. There have been a lot of finger pointing in all this mess and a lot of blame game being played out but the bottom line to all this is the taxpayers of Arkansans are being forced to bear the consequences of what we can only say has been a total lack of leadership, management and oversight. We’d like to know, as does Sen. Terry Rick, R-Waldron, why the contract that ended up costing taxpayers millions of dollars in overruns didn’t go before a sub-committee before reaching the full Legislative Council. And, while we’re all talking about all these millions of extra dollars being tossed around let’s also bring up the $85,0000 lawmakers approved spending on a sole-source contract with The Pace Group Inc. of Tupelo, Miss., to find a new DHS director. Let’s remember that John Selig, the current director, is all of a sudden retiring at the end of the year. As we’ve pointed out before, all we can hope for is that Selig’s replacement is up to the job at hand and capable of straightening this mess out before we, as taxpayers, wind up giving away more millions of dollars on unnecessary expenses.

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