Health Reform chairs to recommend not renewing consultant contract

The co-chairs of the Legislature's Health Reform Legislative Task Force plan to recommend that a contract with a consultant not be offered, a week after a bare majority of the task force voted to hire that consultant, because of the lack of consensus among the committee.In an email sent to members of the task force, Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, and Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, said they would recommend against signing the contract with New Hampshire-based The Stephen Group to the Arkansas Legislative Council Executive Subcommittee Thursday and again to the entire Arkansas Legislative Council on Friday. The ALC is a group of legislators that functions as a quasi-Legislature during the interim between sessions."It is our recommendation that a contract NOT be offered to ANY firm at this time," they wrote. "We believe we need to explore other alternatives that have broader consensus."The two said in the email that they would present the contract along with their concerns to both the executive subcommittee and the the full ALC. They said they would "work diligently" with The Stephen Group if ALC moves forward on the contract.The task force must present its first report by the end of this year. In an interview with Talk Business & Politics, Hendren said, "We're not saying that we're not going to hire a consultant. We're saying we don't suggest hiring one today. There's a lot of work we can do without that, and we really need to be unified as we move forward in making sure that everybody's getting what they feel like they need to get in order to help solve this problem. So I think it's a pothole, but I don't think it's a wreck."The Stephen Group was one of six firms that responded to a request for proposal to serve as a consultant for the task force, which was created this past session to produce reforms to the overall Medicaid program. It was created in order to broaden the debate over the private option, the controversial program that provides health insurance to lower-income Arkansans.- See more at:
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