Arkansas Legislative Council
Dec. 17, 2021
Rice [00:02:08] Members, if you will, move to your seats and we will get started. Okay, members, if you’ll get seated and finish your conversations, we will get started. It’s 9 o’clock. While you are quieting down, let me thank you for all our members of the council, those alternates and the legislators that may not be members, but are here showing interest each meeting. We are winding up the first half of the 93rd General Assembly that ALC serves in between sessions. It’s important work, a lot of details, and I just want to thank you for that. I would, as a point of personal privilege, let me mention to you, wish you a Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and as we are enjoying our families and our friends, be mindful of those who have are going through challenges who recently had storm victims and loss of life, loss of property, their lives turned upside down in this state and we know in other states too. So in this season, let’s remember them and again realize how blessed we are. So with that, thank you for being here today. You have a copy of the minutes in front of you. And if you’ve had an opportunity to look over those, I’d accept a motion to approve. I have a motion. A second? Second. All in favor, aye.Thank you for approval of the minutes. As another personal privilege, I’m going to go down to the table and I’ll turn over to my co-chair for just a minute.
Speaker 2 [00:04:35] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, you’re recognized.
Rice [00:04:57] Thank you. I would like to have Estella Smith come down and join me. Good morning. Good to see you. Thank you for joining me. Can you hear me alright standing through the mic here? Estella has been a valued employee of the state of Arkansas, and I know you hear all these citations read and sometimes you just hand it out, but I said, I want to read this. Whereas Miss Estella L. Smith, assistant director of the research services division of the Bureau of Legislative Research, is retiring on December 31, 2021, after dedicating 47 years, 47 years of service to the state government and leaving a solid example of commitment and a legacy of servant leadership for all. And whereas Estella joined the BLR in 1978. Some of y’all… just saying. She worked for the Arkansas Senate for five years and returned to BLR in 2001. Her career has included multiple roles, including assistant to the director of financial services division, Senate budget clerk and legislative analyst. She was promoted to administrator of the committee staff section in 2010 and became assistant director for the Research Services Division in 2019. Whereas an institution in her own right, Estella has performed invaluable work in each endeavor she has touched. She has been nationally recognized for her long standing distinguished service to the legislative institution, professionalism, poise and humor, including receiving the 2014 Research and Committee Staff Section Award from NCSL in the 2016 Carter/Hellard Legislative Staff Award from SLC. She has been a tremendous asset to legislators, the bureau, agency personnel and the state of Arkansas. And whereas the members of the Arkansas Senate wish to join Senator Terry Rice in commending Mrs. Estella Smith for her exemplary leadership and outstanding service in wishing her a– wishing her well in her retirement and future endeavors. And we do wish you well and we thank you for your service. We’re going to tag team just a little bit.
Wardlaw [00:08:48] We in the House want to congratulate her as well and wish her a happy retirement and we will miss you, Miss Smith.
Smith [00:09:22] Good morning. I just wanted to say thank you. It has been a pleasure serving all of you over the years. And as I told Senator Rice, I was negative 15 when I started work, just in case you wondered. Thank you again.
Rice [00:09:46] Sen. Elliott, did you have a request? You hit your button. Sen. Elliott, you’re recognized.
Elliott [00:09:52] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Will the vice president for governmental affairs at Children’s Hospital please stand up, please stand up. Are you here? Is she here? Oh, she’s– Rosi Smith, Rosi, it seems in the theme of what we’ve just been talking about after all these years of being our friend and doing all the work for Children’s Hospital as vice president for government relations, she’s decided she loves us, but she’s had enough. She’s going to go travel. She is retiring. So thank you, Rosi, for all of your– yeah. And Rosi, would you just shout out when because I don’t have that information. When are you retiring? What’s your date? I was afraid it would be today, so thank you so much for hanging it on. We appreciate you very much. Thanks, Mr. Chair.
Rice [00:11:04] Thank you, Senator. I’ll tell you what. There’s a lot of valuable years of knowledge in those two, and as others, we see we lose that. And as a legislature like we rely on that. Members, we’ll take just a second. I’m going to recognize Sen. Hammer for a word of prayer. We have a colleague whose husband, Tom Fite, is in a serious health condition now. So we’re going to ask Senator Hammer, if he will, lead us in prayer. If you will stand.
Hammer [00:11:46] Father, God, we come before your throne today, and we come not on behalf of ourselves for we are blessed to be here to have the physical, emotional and mental capacity to be able to deliberate the business of the citizens of Arkansas. So this prayer, lord,is not about us. This prayer’s about Tom Fite and about Rep. Fite and for the fight that he is in. And God, what we will pray, is that you would restore his health. We know that you have a divine will. We know that we are all subject to your will for our life. But father, we in this chamber and in this audience hold Tom in high regard and know that he is valuable to the state. He is valuable to Rep. Fite. Father, he is valuable to the work that you want us to do, those that reflect your name and call upon your name for salvation. So we’re going to pray that you would just give him the physical, emotional, spiritual strength, give him healing, lord, that he might be able to have his health restored. And just to be able to, father, endure the rest of the journey here in life that you have for him and a quality of life status. Thank you, Lord, for the season. And we pray, Lord, that you would just bless those that are experiencing great difficulties during the season, whether it’s the financial distress or whether it’s the victims that don’t have a home to put a tree in. We pray, Lord, that you would just bless him, and we just pray for all the resources available to be poured into their neighborhoods and into their communities. And may lord this be a time that we don’t focus so much on the tragedy as we do just how it is, Lord, that we rally to the aid of our neighbors, regardless of whatever their color, their race, their nationality, whatever their political stance is, and all those things that at a time like this really don’t mean anything. It’s just about neighbor loving neighbor. So we pray, Lord, that they would have all the resources poured to them that is possible. Thank you, Lord, for those that have retired today for the inspiration they have been to bring a bright spot to this day. And we just pray that you bless them in their retirement. Thank you, Lord, for loving us and giving your son for us. And we ask you all in the name of Jesus Christ the Savior. And God’s people said Amen.
Rice [00:14:01] Thank you. Next, we will have a presentation by Miss Ellie Stinnett of the legislative report. Thank you for being here, Miss Stinnett. If you’d recognize yourself.
Stinnett [00:14:25] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Ellie Stinnett, BLR. Compared to the same period last year, our gross general revenues are up 2.6 percent. Net general revenues are up 2.7 percent and the net available for distribution is up 3 percent. On Page two, you can see that we are currently $73 million above the forecasted value for this period. Gross receipt taxes are up 10.4 percent and total income taxes are down 2.5 percent. And one item of note, there has been a revision to the forecast, but it will not take effect until next month’s report, and that takes into account all of the legislation that was passed during the special session. I’m happy to take questions.
Rice [00:15:24] Any questions on the report? Rep. Meeks, you’re recognized.
Meeks [00:15:31] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Just a real quick question. As we know, inflation has been becoming a concern in the economy. Do y’all have any idea what impact it’s going to have on state revenues. Will that increase them, decrease them or do we know on all that yet?
Stinnett [00:15:48] Sure. So we haven’t looked directly at inflation, but we do have a forecast for the next couple of years that was provided to us by Moody’s Analytics when they were reviewing our tax policy proposal. And they are showing that that impact of inflation will have an increased wage and that overall our state budget will grow because of it.
Meeks [00:16:07] All right. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Rice [00:16:12] Seeing no other questions, thank you for your report. Thank you. Next, we have the executive subcommittee report from co-chair Rep. Wardlaw
Wardlaw [00:16:30] The executive subcommittee met at 10 a.m. on Dec. 16, 2021, in Room B and Big Mac building in Little Rock, Arkansas. Cochairman Wardlaw recognized. The subcommittee met on Thursday, December 16, and approved an amendment to the consulting services contract between the bureau and the Segal Group. The amendment extends the current contract with Segal through January 31, 2022, and includes an additional 10 percent to the total maximum of the contract. The subcommittee also decided to pull down revenue forecast and contract RFP in order to reevaluate the needs of the General Assembly. I move adoption of this report. And remember, whatever you put in front of me, I will read.
Rice [00:17:12] I have a motion and second. Second. All in favor aye. I thank you for adoption of the report. Next, we have the Administrative Rules Committee. Senator Hammer, you’re authorized to– recognized to give your report.
Hammer [00:17:30] Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Administrative Rules subcommittee met on Wednesday, December 15. The subcommittee adopted a report of the executive subcommittee concerning its approval of an emergency rule. The subcommittee reviewed and filed a report on the State Board of Physical Therapy pursuant to Act 937 at 2021. The subcommittee received an agency update on delinquent rulemaking from the Department of Agriculture under Act 517 of 2019, and a motion was adopted to no longer require the agency to submit monthly written updates, instead requiring the agency to update the subcommittee with written notification once litigation is resolved. The subcommittee filed the December monthly written agency updates pursuant to Act 595 of 2021. As mentioned in the report, the subcommittee approved certain agency’s request to be excluded from Act 595 reporting requirements. The subcommittee also reviewed and filed agency’s initial rule reports pursuant to Act 1076 of 2021. All rules were reviewed and approved. At the conclusion of the meeting, questions arose concerning the status of the Arkansas History Commission’s promulgation of rules in relation to Act 1003 of 2021 by the deadline therein of January 1, 2022. Move adoption of the report. My understanding is that representatives of the Historic– History Commission are here to answer questions as requested. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Rice [00:19:05] Thank you. Any questions on the report? If not, have a motion to adopt the report? Motion and second. All in favor, aye. Is there a request for any discussion? Senator Johnson, did you, did you have a request? If you will make your request.
M Johnson [00:19:35] I’m at 57, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I’d like to request if there’s someone from the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism here, I just have a question about the rules for Act 1003, which we expected before this meeting, and we haven’t gotten it yet. I believe maybe Miss Fisken is here to explain.
Rice [00:20:01] Thank you for being here today. If you will recognize yourself and then we’ll let you address Senator Johnson’s question.
Fiskin [00:20:13] Good morning, I’m Leslie Fiskin, chief of legislative affairs for Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
Andrews [00:20:20] Good morning. I’m Jim Andrews, general counsel for Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
M Johnson [00:20:27] Am I recognized now, Mr. Chairman? May I proceed? Thank you. Mrs. Fiskin, we visited on the phone, but for the benefit of the entire membership, I’ll, I’ll just ask you, could you tell us where we are on the rule and why we missed the deadline?
Fiskin [00:20:47] As we discussed, we are drafting these rules. We have taken a very thorough analysis and been very detailed in our drafting of the rule. We were following the law on, on the timing. We have researched them. We have– let’s see, we’ve visited with other states. We have specifically worked with the state of Tennessee to research and learn more about what, how their act has been implemented and their rules specific so that we can– we would like to reach the public comment period and have the most thorough analysis of rules that are going to work. We’ve also drafted guidelines. We’ve drafted four separate applications that are a part of this process. We’ve worked with our general counsel who’s sitting next to me.
M Johnson [00:21:34] Could you move a little closer to the mic? I’m sorry.
Fiskin [00:21:37] Yeah, we’ve worked with our general counsel who’s here with me, Jim Andrews, our chief of staff, who’s also a lawyer. We’ve also worked with our director of our Division of Arkansas Heritage, as well as the state historian and director of Arkansas State Archives.
M Johnson [00:21:53] OK, I’m a little troubled when you mention conferring with Tennessee. When I was drafting this bill, I looked at what Tennessee had done and I, and again, of course, we learn by the mistakes of others sometimes, but I did have a few concerns about the direction they went with it. So I would really like to have an opportunity to review what you did on that just because of the fact that again, it could be just fine, but, but that’s, again, what we have to do here when we review these, these rules.
Fiskin [00:22:26] Yes, sir. We reviewed several– we looked at several other states that are surrounding us, including Tennessee. We looked at other states to see if they had acts that were similar. This is, as you know, a new and complicated law. There’s going to be a lot of attention on these rules. So we wanted to be very detail oriented and, and learn from other states on what worked for them and what didn’t work for them. Everything that we’re doing follows the intent of the law. And at this point, as soon as we have a draft that we feel comfortable sharing with you, that we feel is a final draft, we, we will share that with you.
M Johnson [00:23:00] Okay, thank you. And I would reiterate that it– we have a reason. We have deadlines and legislation for rules and it has risen in this case. Some cases it really doesn’t make much difference. But I should let the council know that there’s litigation related to act in 1003 in Fort Smith and the judge basically instructed the defendants to go to Heritage Department, get the, get the rule so they could ask for the waiver they appear to be wanting to seek under the law, but there’s no guidelines yet. So again, I just reiterate to you that, you know, we don’t put these dates in there just arbitrarily there. They’re there for a reason, and I would hope in the future y’all could– and I appreciate the work you’re doing, but we do– deadlines do mean things. And I just wanted to– do we have an estimated date? Is it– will it be in January or February when we will see this?
Fiskin [00:24:08] The next step for us is to submit this to the governor’s office for review and our– we have a directive from Governor Hutchinson that all agencies should have those to the governor’s office by December 31, and we plan to have those to the governor’s office by early next week.
M Johnson [00:24:24] So it’s possible that we would have this for the January meeting.
Fiskin [00:24:30] We’ll have to work with the governor’s office on the timing of–
M Johnson [00:24:32] I realize it’s up to him, but again, that’s at least a good estimate. OK. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Rice [00:24:40] Thank you. Sen. Elliott, you’re recognized.
Elliott [00:24:47] I was just trying to catch up on what is Act 1003 that we were talking about because I was trying to find it and I haven’t found it yet. Could I get a quick– what are we talking about? What’s the act?
Fiskin [00:25:05] This is– Senator Johnson’s Act 1003 is the Historical Monument Protection Act that puts a law in place that protects the Capitol grounds, the monuments and statues on Capitol grounds as well as–.
Elliott [00:25:17] Okay. Yeah, I understand what it is now.
Fiskin [00:25:19] –statues on governmental property.
Elliott [00:25:20] Thank you. And I’m so sorry. I didn’t– I really was not asking you– I didn’t mean for you to explain it to me, but that’s fine. I appreciate it. Thank you, Mr. Chair. That’s all.
Rice [00:25:28] Senator English, you’re recognized.
English [00:25:31] Thank you. I’m doing the Higher Education Report. Are you ready for that?
Rice [00:25:39] We are ready for the higher education report for you.
English [00:25:42] OK, thank you. The Higher Education Subcommittee met on Monday, December 13, 2021. The subcommittee heard testimony regarding the following items: computer science programs in higher education, k through 12 career education, industry opportunities and working with the higher education curriculum. I move we accept this report.
Rice [00:26:05] I have a motion and a second. All in favor, say aye. All opposed. Thank you. Next, we have a peer report, Sen. Jonathan Dismang will give that report.
Dismang [00:26:16] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Peer subcommittee met on Tuesday, December 14. The subcommittee received reports, reviewed requests and approved the following items: various temporary appropriation increases, Cares appropriation increases, American Rescue Plan appropriation increases, a rainy day transfer and restricted reserve fund transfer. I move for adoption of the report.
Rice [00:26:37] Thank you, Senator Dismang. Not seeing any questions, I have a motion and a second for the report? Motion, second. All in favor aye. Opposed. Report is approved. Next, we have the review report. Senator Flippo.
Flippo [00:27:00] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Mr. Chair. The review subcommittee met on Tuesday and reviewed methods of finance, discretionary grants and services contracts. Three out of state contracts were held. The contract for information systems was held for questions. Those have been answered and the hold on contract number 25 on Page 13 has been released. Two contracts, number 14 and number 15 on Page nine of the report, were held for educational TV, and the agency has pulled those contracts from legislative review at this time. I move adoption of the review report, including a review of the contract for information systems with Fischer International Identity.
Rice [00:27:36] Not seeing any questions, I have a motion to approve? A motion and a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Thank you for that report, Senator Flippo. We next have personnel classification compensation report. Representative Hillman, you’re recognized.
Hillman [00:28:01] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The personnel committee met Wednesday, December 15, and the committee reviewed and approved the request for reports listed on items 1 through 11 on the report. I’d be happy to entertain any questions that any member might have. Otherwise, I move for the adoption of this report.
Rice [00:28:22] I have a motion and a second. All in favor aye. All right. Well, just one second. I’ve got one I’m going to take. Sen. Sample, you’re recognized.
Sample [00:28:36] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’d like to, to have someone from the Department of Corrections come up, please.
Rice [00:28:45] Department of Corrections. Secretary Graves is making his way up here. Welcome, Secretary Graves. If you will, identify yourself and Sen. Samples–
Graves [00:29:08] Good morning, members of the council. Solomon Graves, secretary of corrections.
Sample [00:29:14] Senator Graves. I understand that you are planning to implement some raises for all of your employees. Is that correct? T.
Graves [00:29:27] The raises part, yes. The all part, no. The grid that the subcommittee reviewed earlier in the week is targeted to only positions related to security, treatment, offender supervision and food service.
Sample [00:29:46] And what would be the cost of that?
Graves [00:29:49] I’m sorry?
Sample [00:29:50] What will be the cost of that?
Graves [00:29:52] Over time, we project the total cost to raise our salaries by 8.3 percent for a max cost of 25 million over time, with the majority of that happening in the ’25 and ’27 biennium. Unfortunately, our vacancy rates being what they are, we are able to account for this with salary savings with no new funding for the remainder of this biennium. Looking at a projection of one, one and a half percent staff growth to three percent, we think we can actually get through the ’25 biennium without any new money. But it does get tight in FY ’25.
Sample [00:30:36] You’re saying biennium rather than fiscal year.
Graves [00:30:41] Yes, sir.
Sample [00:30:42] Okay. All right. Thank you. I just want that explanation.
Graves [00:30:46] Yes, sir.
Rice [00:30:50] Senator Hester, you’re recognized.
Hester [00:30:54] Thank you. I wasn’t here earlier this week when this went through, but I think, you know, clearly we’re seeing inflation across the country and the state. These are already positions that are extremely difficult to, to fill. How short are you on people right now and what’s your turnover like?
Graves [00:31:09] In our CO 1 vacancy rate in the division of Correction is right at 54 percent. In the division of community correction, it’s right at 42 percent.
Hester [00:31:23] Well, I for one, I appreciate you guys doing what you can to correct. These are very important jobs. I mean, public safety is, I would argue, our number one responsibility and we’ve got to make sure that people are paid to do those jobs. Thank you.
Rice [00:31:45] I’m sorry, I was distracted. Did you get all you needed, Senator Hester? OK, thank you. Senator Irvin, you are recognized.
Irvin [00:31:55] Thank you, Director Graves. I just wanted to pass along to you my appreciation. We partnered with you to do the realignment and reorganization of your school district.
Graves [00:32:05] Yes, ma’am.
Irvin [00:32:06] And I heard from some of the teachers up in the North, North Central Arkansas Correctional Unit about how great things are moving and, and how much of a big change that they’ve seen in that and how effective they’re able to be. And so I just, I wanted to let the legislators know that was part of a bill that a lot of us supported and put together. And so I just appreciate that realignment for the Department of Corrections, and it’s working well. And it was really just great to hear that positive feedback from, you know, somebody who is teaching in the correctional unit up there in Calico Rock, and what a big difference it’s making. So I just wanted to pass along that and share my appreciation.
Graves [00:32:53] The support of you and, and the members of your caucus were appreciated on that point. We think that’s going to be an absolute game changer as we work to prepare our offenders for high skilled, high paying jobs in the 21st century.
Irvin [00:33:08] Yeah, I just appreciate my colleagues and our Republican women legislative caucus that helped me with that. Thank you.
Rice [00:33:15] Senator Stubblefield, you’re recognized. Push your button again. Go ahead.
Stubblefield [00:33:30] Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Solomon, can you tell me how much Cares money you’ve received up to date, how much COVID money you’ve received?
Graves [00:33:39] If, if I can give you an approximate, probably about 11 million.
Stubblefield [00:33:45] 11 million?
Graves [00:33:46] Yes, sir.
Stubblefield [00:33:48] OK. Thank you very much.
Rice [00:33:53] OK. Seeing no more questions, thank you, Secretary Graves, for being here today. OK. We had a motion and a second. We didn’t complete our vote. All in favor aye. Opposed. Thank you for that. Next our report on the– this is occupational license review and Rep. Cavenaugh, you’re recognized to give that report.
Cavenaugh [00:34:18] Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Occupational License Review subcommittee met Thursday, December the 16th, to review a report on occupational authorizations from the Arkansas State Medical Board of the Arkansas Department of Health. With that, I would move for adoption of the report.
Rice [00:34:37] OK, and their co-chair, Clark, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you. I was told you weren’t, weren’t here and missed you, but thank you for that report, Rep. Cavenaugh. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Obviously I had a motion to second on that. Members, next we have the five items that will require motions. First is– on H is review of communications. Is there any request for– to bring anybody up on that? If not, I’ll take a motion for H1. This is Arkansas public employees retirement system that we have before us every month for review. Any questions for that? If not, I’ll take a motion for H1. I have a motion. I have a second. I have a motion and second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. It’s approved. The second we have is H2, is Arkansas Teacher Retirement System. Any questions for that? Do we need to bring anybody up? It’s a monthly report. If not, I’ll take a motion. I have a motion. I have a second. All in favor aye. Opposed. Thank you for that. We do have. Yeah, I’m sorry. I did not do 2B– didn’t do it so I’ll take a motion for that. I have a motion. I have a motion and second. All in favor aye. Opposed. OK. Now members we go to number four. Again, any of these that, that you have that are not requiring a motion, if you have questions, you can ask for those. This is Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Commission. Any questions on that? That’s– it is two bond programs. I do have questions. Senator Irvin, you’re recognized.
Irvin [00:37:00] It’s not necessarily a question. It’s really just a statement. I think it’s really, really incred– and very important that we emphasize our water and wastewater infrastructure. It is very lacking across the state. So it’s just an opportunity for me to say that we need to really focus in that area and work with ANRC on that because there’s a lot of areas in the state of Arkansas that are in desperate need of upgrades to their water and wastewater systems. So I hope we focus on that in the next coming year.
Rice [00:37:34] Thank you, and if you’d like to make a motion for approval. I have motion of approval and second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Thank you for that. The last one we have is number 5, H5, is Department of Commerce, AEDC, a division of rural services. Any questions for that? Not seeing that, do I have a motion? Motion. I have a second. All in favor aye. Opposed. Thank you for that. Again, if there are other reports you see, if you have questions– those are lots of reports. I’m not seeing anybody would question those. In our new business on I, we’ve requested Department of Human Services be here, and so if they will come up at this time. Secretary Gillespie and Mr. Mark White, if you’ll come up to the table. OK, thank y’all for being here today, and we appreciate that. I understand you have a presentation for us, so if you will identify yourself and proceed.
Gillespie [00:38:53] All right. Cindy Gillespi. I’m the secretary of the Department of Human Services.
White [00:38:58] Mark White, Chief of Staff, legal and Legislative Affairs for DHS.
Franklin [00:39:02] Mary Franklin, Director of Division of County Operations for DHS.
Rice [00:39:06] Thank you, Secretary Gillespie, if you will, pull that mic toward you. It’ll slide toward you. That’d be helpful like you.
Gillespie [00:39:12] All right. Is that better? Good. OK, thank you. I just want to kick this off. I’m going to let deputy director Mark White walk you through the presentation very quickly. I want to say to members of the committee that we are– have moved to an intense focus and plan around the LTSS Medicaid eligibility backlog. As you are probably aware from your constituents and others there, and I think we have testified to this previously, there is a backlog that is existing within Medicaid eligibility overall. But the LTSS portion of that, where we determine eligibility for individuals who need nursing homes, assisted living, PACE, ARChoices, in-home services, that backlog in particular has become very much in our minds a crisis in the state. And so we have put in place a much– a very heavily monitored intensive plan to address this over the coming weeks. This will be driven out of the secretary’s office. And as you will see from our current plan, we are moving quite a few resources into the backlog as a whole and onto this particular area of focus. A lot of these resource changes for us are actually planned to be permanent because it is an area where we feel like ongoing we will need additional resources. I do want to thank the Health Care Association. They’ve worked with us on this– BLR, OPM and a number of members of the Legislature have worked with us around this. So I do want to thank you on that. We will be providing ongoing reports to you so that you can, along with us, monitor and assure that we are proceeding as planned. With that, I’m just going to turn it over to Mark to walk you through the plan.
Rice [00:41:22] Thank you. Let me jump in here. Members, if you can, let’s, let’s keep the chatter down where we can hear the report. Thank you.
White [00:41:31] Thank you, Senator, secretary Gillespie. So members, I know in recognition of your time, we’re not going to walk through every page of the PowerPoint. You do have that detailed plan in front of you. And certainly as you see questions, whether you ask them today, you’re certainly welcome to reach out to us later and we’ll be happy to answer questions around that. I just want to touch on just a few high points related to it. As the secretary said, we do have a backlog, a backlog of applications. And so, as of last Friday for nursing homes, we had 516 applications that were overdue. For assisted living, 270 applications that were overdue. And then also when there are applications that become overdue and we get a delay in there, sometimes that forces the provider to have to file claims on paper, and those paper claims take additional time and effort to process. And so we have a stack of those as well, a little over 660 of those paper claims that we’re working to process. And so I want to just touch on our steps going forward for how we’re going to address that. First, we are looking to two vendors to provide some additional support around processing Medicaid eligibility– both Deloitte, who’s one of our main IT vendors, as well as implementing our new eligibility system and also Maximus, which they’ve assisted in the past around eligibility and other projects as well. They’ll be taking over some of that processing for Medicaid eligibility on the MAGI side, which is that’s things like Arkansas Works, which is about to become our home, other types of Medicaid that don’t necessarily look at resources, and other items that are looked at in long term care. By doing that, that’s going to help free up some capacity in our staff that we can dedicate more to the long term care side because we are having real issues with getting staff in the door and keeping them as, as all employers are in this economy. And then we’re also looking to enhance our staff as well. We are taking 19 of our existing vacant positions and we’re going to shift them into this unit. This will increase the size of this unit to 132. And that’ll include 17 more caseworkers, as well as a couple of– one supervisor and one admin position. And then we’ll also come back to you in January seeking to add an additional registered nurse position. Because that’s one of the things that makes this area more complicated is they’re not only looking at finances, they’re also looking at medical eligibility and other issues that affect the eligibility for these facilities. And then we’ve recognized that because this work is so much more complicated and difficult than standard Medicaid eligibility, it really doesn’t make sense to have workers at the same grade and pay scale doing this work compared to standard Medicaid eligibility. And that’s just something that we probably should have recognized before. We’ve come to recognize as a result of dealing with this. So what we’re proposing to do, we will come to you all in the fiscal session next year asking to upgrade these positions. So right now, our standard caseworker position is GSO6. We’ll be asking to upgrade these long term care eligibility positions to GSO7. Similarly, for the supervisors to move from GSO7 to GSO8 and then the overall supervisor to move from GSO8 to GS10, again recognizing just that this is work that is much more complex and difficult than what the rest of our caseworkers do. Now what we’re going to do immediately to address this crisis in the short term is we’re moving to go ahead and increase the salaries there to reflect those grades. We have some tools we can use internally to get those salaries up, and that will help us in recruiting folks to come into these positions and take this work on. But as I said, we’ll come back to you in the fiscal session to have that increase reflected in the grade of the position. And that will cost approximately 1.7 million, which we can absorb in our existing budget. And the majority of that will be covered by federal funds. And then finally, on the Redline claims, we’re taking a similar approach there that we’re bringing in some additional vendor help to help us processing that. We’re expecting to see some good results even as early as next week with getting some stacks of these processed, and we’ll be continue to push to get these processed and out the door over the next six to eight weeks and get as many of those processed and get that money in the facilities’ bank accounts because we know that the facilities, they shouldn’t have to wait for the payment since they’re already providing care for these individuals. So that’s just the highlights of the plan. With that, we’ll be happy to answer any questions.
Rice [00:46:04] Thank you. We do have some questions. Let me take a moment and just say, Secretary Gillespie and Mr. White both, we’ve discussed this over a period of time. And I realize you had– your agency– nobody really can understand the magnitude that y’all deal with. So I do that. But I continue to say this and I’ll say this to my colleagues here. What bothers me is when government expects private business to do things that government won’t hold themselves to. Now you may be trying. We’re all experiencing staffing and employee problems, retention and we talk about it and we’re trying to give you the tools to do that. But on long term care, we will continue to have state inspectors in there. We want, we want our, our patients are kept safe. We want things checked out, but we can do that. But we have people that– some people have deeper pockets and others. We’ve got people strained, and when we have employees that have their salaries deferred because the state is not paying for services that should be approved and out the door, it’s a, it is a crisis. And I’m asking for everything you can do as we’re over this holiday period and starting a new year, we’ve got to get, we’ve got to get some help going because it is a crisis. I keep talking about rural Arkansas. I’m not just, I’m not just focused on them on everything we do, but I will say it one more time. If these long term facilities close in rural Arkansas, they will not open back up because they do not have the clientele there that will do that. And we’ve talked about people now having to drive two hours to see a loved one. It, it’s, it’s serious. Thank you for listening to me and I’ll go to Representative Ladyman. You’re recognized.
Ladyman [00:48:09] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Senator Rice touched on my question, really. But first, let me say thank you all for this report. I, like many others, have got a lot of comments and emails and so forth, and we discussed this between us. It’s a big issue, a big problem, as you all understand. I’m glad to see some of the things that you’re doing. But my question really, and you may not be able to answer this or it may not have any effect on it, but does the availability of facilities impact this? Does it slow it down? Is that a problem, or does it not impact this at all?
White [00:48:50] I’m sorry. The availability of facilities in terms of how many, how many beds they have available or–
Ladyman [00:48:57] Right, the availability of a place for these folks to go once you approve them. I mean, does that impact the work that you’re doing?
White [00:49:04] That doesn’t impact the work we’re doing necessarily, but our work does impact that in that there are facilities that they will accept Medicaid patients, but if, if they’re not getting paid for the Medicaid patients, sometimes they’ll put a limit on how many they’ll accept. And so we recognize that’s one of the consequences of these delays that we want to address and get taken care of.
Ladyman [00:49:21] All right. Thank you.
Rice [00:49:24] Senator Elliott, you’re recognized.
Elliott [00:49:27] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mark, when, when we move these people up into a different, to a different grid for their salaries, what’s the salary range going to be for them? Do you know offhand?
White [00:49:40] I can pull that up for you.
Elliott [00:49:41] Okay. That’d be great. I’d kind of like to know where they’re moving from and to what. Tony has it?
Rice [00:50:05] Thanks, Tony. Bring it here. Thank you.
Elliott [00:50:08] Oh, OK, great.
White [00:50:11] Thank you. So GSO6, the entry level salary is 36,155. For GS7, it is 40,340.
Elliott [00:50:24] And I don’t mean to ask an obvious question just to be asking it. But how comfortable do you feel that that $40,000 is going to make a big difference in your ability to, to recruit folks as we are in such a crunch in recruiting folks?
Gillespie [00:50:42] I’ll start and then I’ll let– since director Franklin is hiring them. The LTSS positions, one of the– one of our core requirements is that they should know Medicaid eligibility. So the individuals who get hired are likely to be from within the current staff that is doing eligibility. And they are GS06’s. So when they move to the 7, they get a 10 percent increase. They don’t necessarily go to the $40,000. So it also becomes a career ladder within the division of county operations. There is a way to move up to doing more complex work and as part of that move up the ladder to a higher grade. We’ve never had that within there.
Elliott [00:51:31] Are you saying that that $40,000– is that, is that the high for that grid?
Gillespie [00:51:36] That’s the lowest. That is your entry level.
Elliott [00:51:39] That’s the lowest? Okay.
Gillespie [00:51:39] So if someone is in a GS06 and has been with us for several years, they will be making in the 40’s or 50’s. And when they move to a GS07, they will get a 10 percent increase for that move.
Elliott [00:51:51] All right. Somebody else was going to say something.
Franklin [00:51:55] I would just add that we do believe this will help us to be able to hire people who are familiar with Medicaid and working in regular Medicaid categories. And will just need to learn the additional complexity of the long term service and supports categories. So we feel like in addition to helping us attract people, it will help us attract people who are a good way there to getting up to speed and being able to function and complete long term care cases. So it should help us reduce the amount of training time it takes when we lose someone in the LTSS unit to get a new person up to speed.
Gillespie [00:52:36] And our other thought with this is it is very important that we retain the LTSS workers we currently have. It is a more complex area. It requires a lot more work to do that. They are already putting in a lot of voluntary overtime. So all of the current LTSS staff will get that 10 percent increase and the recognition that the work they do is more complex. So hopefully that will also help with retention and turnover.
Elliott [00:53:05] And do you know if these, the salaries that we’re talking about in the whole range, if this is comparable to salary demand in the labor market for people who do like kind of a work or similar kind of work? Is it– is it competitive in the labor market is what I’m asking you.
Gillespie [00:53:31] I think that’s hard for us to say, simply because there’s not a lot of private sector similar work, except where we contract for it. So this is very much a government function. So it is, it is hard to say. We– Director Franklin can speak to this better, but we often hire in from some private industries that I won’t name where, surprisingly, we pay better than they do. But we then also lose workers because they become very computer proficient doing this work and we lose them to other industries where there is more opportunity, often for advancement. So it’s–
Elliott [00:54:22] Well, that’s– well, that’s exactly kind of what I was thinking about as we train more folks, are we– is this really going to help us retain them? Because I don’t, I don’t mean the work is exactly like, but the skills demanded might be real similar where they might just leave. And so I just wanted to be kind of sure we are competitive so that they don’t get trained and leave.
Gillespie [00:54:50] That’s our goal, Senator. But we’re all in an evolving labor market right now. And so that’s partly why when I started, I said one of the things we’re going to be doing as we work our way through this over the next next few weeks and months around the broader Medicaid backlog, as well as this, is we are going to continuously assess, are the steps we are taking working? What is happening? And react to that and come in with additional resources, additional process changes, additional technology. Because what the labor market looks like today, it may not look like in two to three months. And that’s what we’re reacting to, honestly, all across DHS is that shift and change that’s constantly going on, as well as the addition of remote work that is also impacting.
Elliott [00:55:45] All right. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you all for your responses.
Rice [00:55:48] Thank you. Senator Sullivan, you’re recognized.
Sullivan [00:55:52] Thank you, Mr. Chair. One comment. I didn’t know there was such a thing as voluntary overtime. I hope you’re referring to paid overtime. You get to comment on that now. And the second thing, could you please– Craighead County is experiencing some problems there in cash flow, and could you send me an email of how quickly you’ll remedy that, you know, take care of that?
White [00:56:16] Yes, sir. We can respond back with some information on Craighead. We’ll get that to you.
Sullivan [00:56:18] Okay, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Rice [00:56:21] Thank you. Representative Eubanks, you’re recognized.
Eubanks [00:56:25] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I don’t know who this question– Secretary Gillespie or Mark, but would it be better that these facilities not accept these residents until the eligibility is determined? And if that was the case, what kind of problems would that cause?
Gillespie [00:56:49] It would cause enormous problems for the beneficiaries. And so one of the elements that is structured right now within the way all of this operates is that the facilities are paid back retroactively to the point of– to the point where the person came in and the eligibility was initially requested. When we’re timely, that’s OK. It’s part of the way they have their business process set up. When we get out of time, it does not work. And the facilities are bearing the brunt of this. And so I think it is, it is something we have to fix on our side quickly because what they are doing is for the good of the people that are in those facilities.
White [00:57:38] And I would just add that’s particularly true for the nursing homes because they are part of a continuum of care. So you have folks who go to the hospital, they may step down to rehab, they may step down to a nursing home. But we need to have that capacity there so that– because otherwise you start stacking up folks in the hospitals. And then we saw that in COVID, where we had to try and help expedite getting folks out of the hospitals and into nursing homes so to free hospital capacity for other patients.
Eubanks [00:58:05] Follow up, Mr. Chair. Well, if we’re in a situation where they need to be taking these individuals, does the agency understand how important cash flow is to the operation of any business? Because it doesn’t seem that it does.
White [00:58:21] Yes, sir, we recognize that that is critically important for these facilities. And that’s why we’re taking these steps now to get this addressed and, and taking the steps necessary to get addressed as quickly as possible.
Eubanks [00:58:31] Yeah, because all businesses can’t wait the length of time that has been going on right now in order– and be able to survive.
White [00:58:40] Yes, sir.
Eubanks [00:58:41] Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Rice [00:58:45] Co-chair Wardlaw.
Wardlaw [00:58:46] Thank you, Mr. Chair. And full disclosure, this is an industry that I work in. Following up to Representative Eubanks, I made some phone calls this week to some different facility managers and talked to them about group homes in rural Arkansas. The one I talked to is in my, has two homes in my district. December the 8th, and I want the committee to hear this, they have $1.1 million in over 90 days old in these type claims. I asked him to look, as of yesterday, he was at $900,000. So it has gotten a little bit better. But it is ridiculous that these people have millions– we’re not talking about hundreds or thousands– we’re talking millions of dollars that services have been rendered, patients have been taken care of and they haven’t been paid. I know of another home that’s upwards of about $3 million in that same base. The problem with this is the banks don’t recognize that AR past those 90 days. So these people are holding these millions of dollars that you guys have and they’ve already rendered a service and they can’t even get funds from their accounts receivable on that because it’s past 90 days. So this problem is severe. This problem is very, very, very needs attention, needs to be fixed and whatever we have to do, you guys need to be fixing it. And there was two counties in the state that are extremely behind, which shows that there is problems with employees in your agency. And two of those counties were Craighead County and Saline County. And to see the eligibility messed up in two counties shows that there’s a problem there as well. So I just hope you guys will put the attention that’s needed. We’ve asked for, you know, this to be added to the weekly report and let’s, let’s try to get this fixed to make sure that our rural areas have the services they need and they’re not driving to the biggest town next to them. Because as someone said, family being able to see their loved ones is very important. So thank you.
Rice [01:01:01] OK, we’ve got a few more on the screen here. Let me mention this, of course, we know, not just our long term facilities are 24-7, we need to recognize that the ones in government who are working and we’re authorizing additional funds, pay scales because of the employment crunch and retention, we’re going to expect productivity review. And this is something that I struggle with in a little business is I get more money to keep them, but I don’t get any more out of them. Sometimes I get less out of them. And you’ve got to have that oversight to go along with it. So I hope you’re reviewing that too. I’ve got four on the screen right now. Representative Dotson, you’re recognized.
Dotson [01:01:49] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I mean this, this has been going on for a number of months that I’ve been aware of it. And so I don’t know– with these, with these facilities, I’m assuming you’re still going out and, and making sure that they’re complying and fining them if they are not in compliance with whatever it is and you’re still expecting them to pay you those fines if, if they’re deficient in any way. Is that correct?
Gillespie [01:02:21] Yes. A separate part of DHS is actually continuing to survey all facilities to make sure that they’re in compliance.
Dotson [01:02:30] How do you expect them to pay fines if they don’t have cash flow because they’re waiting on payment from you?
Gillespie [01:02:35] Our, our group works with facilities. We have been– with COVID, there has been a– the facilities have all had issues. We’ve all had issues and we’re all focused together on ensuring that the beneficiaries are safe and are receiving services and are receiving services in a safe setting. COVID has created– this period has created a– how do I say this– while we are each playing our roles and doing as we should, one of ours is safety, one of ours is eligibility, theirs is providing services. We have all faced difficulties and so there has been, I would say, a mutual respect as we’ve all tried to find our way through this together. I mean, one of the things that we are doing in terms of this is we are working with the Healthcare Association to help us identify and triage facilities that are getting into real trouble around these, around this cash flow issue. Everyone is suffering from it, but we are all aligned. None of us want to see these facilities closing, particularly, as you said, in our rural areas. It’s something we’re all very committed to figuring out together. So for whatever that’s worth, there is a recognition by all of us that we’re in this together and that we all have to together serve. And so we do very much appreciate the roles that the homes are playing and the way that they have been working with us. And we know we now have to really, really add resources and get this moving. For us to add contracted resources and create a permanent surge capability, which is also what we’re doing, is a big change for DHS. The contracts y’all are approving as part of this, while one of them is a short term contract for the backlog and the other one has an enhanced component for the backlog, we will leave in place permanently a contract going forward so that when we begin to see that we are having problems in any area of Medicaid eligibility, we can surge up staff and then surge back down. You can’t do that well with only having state employees. So we’re looking at real business process changes as part of this because we don’t want to find ourselves in this situation in the future either.
Dotson [01:05:20] [01:05:20]So have you considered at any point in time putting on pause the, the fines and penalties for those entities that are in that, as you said, triage, dire straits, cash flow issue that you haven’t paid them. So I mean, that’s, that’s like they’re cut, they’re bleeding and you’re pouring lemon juice in it. And stop pouring the lemon juice, at least. [30.3s] Have you considered that?
White [01:05:53] The guidelines around the surveys and the enforcement there, it is federal guidelines. And so we are subject to the authority of CMS and have to follow that direction. I will say to the extent that we can work with a facility if, if, if they have issues, you know, that are caused by the eligibility, we want to work with them and make sure those get addressed. And if, but if they also have issues where we’re issuing fines, I mean, we, we will work with them to the extent we can to make sure we don’t make the situation worse through that, through those fines. [01:06:22]Because the ultimate goal of that process, it’s not to generate revenue. The ultimate goal is just to ensure patient safety. [5.8s] And so we’ll work with those facilities to make sure that we’re not, not taking a bad situation and making it worse.
Dotson [01:06:34] Thank you.
Rice [01:06:36] Senator Hammer and then Representative Cavenaugh. Senator, you’re recognized.
Hammer [01:06:40] Thank you. Good morning. The– to the 90 day, if, if a provider has submitted a claim, it goes over 90 days, did you say or did I misunderstood you to say that after 90 days, they lose everything beyond? Or do they get that paid no matter how long it takes?
White [01:06:57] No, they they will get paid no matter how long it takes. Now, it just– depending on how long it takes, it may have to be a different process, and that’s where those paper claims come in. But no, we will make sure that they are paid regardless. We’re, we’re not going to– if there’s any situation where our delay is delaying a facility from billing, we will make sure that facility gets paid one way or the other.
Hammer [01:07:16] 100 percent for whatever they’re paid?
White [01:07:18] Yes.
Hammer [01:07:19] And that money, while it is under dispute or being held, where is it held in your budget or how is it accounted for in your budget so you know how much that is?
White [01:07:30] It’s– we don’t necessarily track it by money. It’s just the standard Medicaid budget. You know, we pay those claims out of Medicaid, and it’s a variety of funding sources. It’s state general revenue, but it’s also revenue from the bed tax, as well as the federal funds that are pulled down when we make the payment to that facility. We’re tracking, we’re tracking it primarily on the basis of eligibility cases.
Hammer [01:07:52] Are you getting money from the federal government that you’re holding that is not being passed on to the providers or you don’t–
White [01:08:00] No, sir.
Hammer [01:08:00] –you don’t get that till, till you get it approved? Is that correct?
White [01:08:04] Right. We, we only draw down that federal money when we actually make that payment to the provider.
Hammer [01:08:08] And then the last question is, do you know today how much we’re talking about that is over 90 days that has not been paid? Do you have a broken out like 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, over 190 day?
White [01:08:20] I don’t have a broken out like that. I mean, what I can say is that with the paper claims, which is those are– most of those would have involved more than 90 days, which may have already been fixed, it’s just a matter of getting the claim paid, that’s 668, I believe is the number from the presentation, and then I can–
Hammer [01:08:39] I tell you what, if you just get that and, Mr. Chair, I’d like that– if you want it sent through the chair to all the members– but I’d like to get how it’s broken out by 30, 60, 90 and 90 out and see how much it is.
White [01:08:53] Let us, let’s see what we can pull on that.
Hammer [01:08:55] All right. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Rice [01:08:56] Thank you. If you’ll get that to the chair. Rep. Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.
Cavenaugh [01:09:00] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m over here to the right. I guess, like many of us in this room, I’m just frustrated to hear that the providers who are providing the care for our loved ones– and I speak from a personal perspective– can’t get their money, so they can’t pay their bills. What if we held your salary for 90 days and told you to go try to figure it out? You wouldn’t like it. And I can guarantee that you’d find a way through the process. So giving us that this, this has been an ongoing issue that we’ve had to push to make it a priority is unacceptable. We should have never had to push to make it a priority. It should have been priority from day one that our elders who cannot take care of themselves, we take care of. That’s our primary responsibility in government is to help those that cannot help themselves. Y’all have failed them. When I hear you talk about new technology, we pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year for your technology and it’s not working. What’s the problem? Is it truly technology or is it your problem, personnel problem, lack of training problem, lack of empathy problem? So if it’s more technology we need, then why do we keep paying the same people to build the same technology? It doesn’t work. There’s a lot of issues that have to be addressed in this. How is new technology going to help you with this?
Gillespie [01:10:43] I clearly misspoke when I referenced technology. We are not looking to add new technology. This is a personnel and bodies issue at this time. So the contracts we’re doing, ma’am, are actually contracts for these companies to give us additional workers. We will be adding between 150 and 200 temporary additional workers through those contracts with those companies. And then the positions that we’re adding to the state workforce, which are additional bodies, are coming from elsewhere in DHS and we’re transferring those over into the division of county operations to increase their LTSS workforce there. So it’s– the workers we have, our workforce is down about 10 percent. I do not say that as an excuse. We should not be in this situation. Please understand I agree with you. But we– our workers are down about 10 percent and the workers we have are working extremely hard. So we need to get more people on this. And that’s our goal is to get more people on it and build– help them get what they need to be able to actually process these cases.
Cavenaugh [01:12:09] Follow up, Mr. Chair. So, since it’s not technology, it’s just more bodies on the project. That will have to cost us additional money in the contract. And I’m sure you can tell us how much that’s going to cost. But on the long term, how are you going to keep bodies on this project so we don’t get in this area again?
Gillespie [01:12:39] Two ways. First, as I said, we are increasing the size of the division of county operations state employee workforce, and that is a permanent change. We will be– that will be part of what is also done in fiscal session. So that change is for us a permanent one. The second and I guess I should add there, as I said, as we go through the next weeks on this and we’re monitoring to see what is happening, if it turns out that the size we’re making the county workforce still is not satisfactory, we are going to look to figure out how to add more. We, we do not want to leave it not right sized. Then secondly, one of the contracts with Maximus, once the backlog is completed, Maximus will remain under contract, doing a certain amount of work for us each month so that they keep trained people on permanently. So through contract, we’re adding bodies permanently, and that contract includes the ability for us to surge up through them to add more bodies if we have a moment in time in the future years where we have to increase staffing temporarily because of work flow going on.
Cavenaugh [01:14:02] Appreciate that because, I mean, because we, we can’t have this continually going on or reoccurring. Thank you.
Rice [01:14:10] Secretary Gillespie, one of the requests I’d made when, when– for you to be here was a timeline. Can you address that?
Gillespie [01:14:20] What we are working towards right now is, in terms of the overall Medicaid backlog, what we’re working towards is being able to get that backlog down– you always have a certain number of overdue– but get that backlog down to normal by the end of, by the end of March. That is when at this moment in time, the public health emergency is set to end and we do not want to have any backlog as part of that. Within this LTSS space, we are deploying, as you can tell, a lot of contracted resources that will work toward the general backlog. So our goal is to move this LTSS space to be able to move more of it more quickly than through that timeline. We have pieces of this that we will, we will have set up, as I said, for those that are in– that are reaching that stage where they are, they’re, they’re in an actual crisis. We will be triaging that with the Healthcare Association so that we can take interim steps to address those. And we will be working our way through this. At this stage, we’re looking at it as addressing those that are oldest most quickly while also simultaneously having some of the low hanging fruit that we’re hitting. So that’s our overall timeline at this point. And like most things, what we do is we ramp up. The two contractors are aboard now with the passage of the contracts. Both have started work and should be, we should be starting to see the additional staffing coming in there in June on one, fully trained staff operational by the 1st of February. So you’ll have a major ramp up that goes on through February. But between now and then, we’ve also got a lot of efforts and resources aimed at moving through, as, as Representative Wardlaw said, moving through those that are stuck.
White [01:16:37] And I would, I would add to that we also have vendor support going on right now around those redline claims. And as I mentioned earlier, we expect to have a good number processed out even by next week, and those should continue out over the next six to eight weeks.
Rice [01:16:52] And before I go to– members, I think you see this is not a few members isolated. I’ve been saying for a long time, we’ve got to do something, we got to do something. Our membership is frustrated. We understand the dilemma of COVID and employment and all, but this is, is hitting a different pitch. I hope you’re hearing that. Members, if you’ve got something new, I’m going to ask you to keep it to something new that we’re not just rehashing. Representative Dodson and then Senator Hammer.
Dotson [01:17:30] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’ll try to be as brief as possible. My question, I guess, is what happens to– as far as payment for some of these, because if I understand it correctly, if I recall correctly, Medicaid only covers once someone’s been determined eligible– is it 45 days that they, they go back and they pay? If you determine that they’re not eligible, who eats the cost for that, that care for these delays that last longer than, than that 45 day period, if that’s the number that’s correct that I’m remembering?
White [01:18:05] It’s, it’s– for normal Medicaid, including long term care, it’s 90 days prior to the date of application. And that’s true for nursing homes. If that individual is found not be eligible, then ultimately that facility is going to eat that cost. Now, with that said, the facilities, they, they understand what we look at in terms of eligibility. They, they have staff, in most cases, they ask those questions, they get that information from the patient. So the vast majority of the time, at least from what I’ve seen, those facilities have a very good idea when, when they let someone in, they know that person is likely to be approved.
Dotson [01:18:40] But if it’s a DHS deal that maybe the individual wasn’t completely forthcoming, they find out, DHS finds out and discovers they have assets or whatever, and it kicks them out of eligibility, then you’re saying that they could be providing services in some of these cases where the– they’re– I mean, your backlog is, is months and months long for a long period of time, and then the ability to pay for somebody might not actually exist. And so they just– the facilities themselves have to eat all of those costs?
White [01:19:11] Yes, sir. That would be a risk on the facility’s side.
Dotson [01:19:17] Can they refuse service to someone?
White [01:19:20] Yes, they can, they can refuse service if they don’t believe that person would be eligible.
Dotson [01:19:25] K. Thank you.
Rice [01:19:27] Senator Hammer, you’re the last one in show.
Hammer [01:19:29] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Just a quick one. The, the addition of manpower and, you know, bringing on– what system do you use to determine that the workforce that you have is actually maximizing their efforts and before we go and add on additional workforce? What, what’s the system you use? What’s the methodology process, whatever you want to call it?
Franklin [01:20:00] We, we track the productivity through our eligibility system. We have management dashboards that show what work is being done by which staff, so we, we have that ability to monitor that.
Hammer [01:20:15] OK. I’d like to get a copy of that, if you don’t mind. And then I’ll do a follow up with you, please. And is it on the basis of that report that you’re saying that you don’t have enough staff or capability or broadband to, you know, to be able to absorb these responsibilities within your current workforce?
Gillespie [01:20:35] Yes, sir, we have, we have been monitoring this for as, as it has been evolving. Director Franklin and the team have taken a number of actions internally to see if they could tackle the backlog and could keep it from growing as it has. Those aren’t working, and that’s what made us come to the point of saying we just need additional bodies in this.
Hammer [01:21:03] All right. I’d just like to get a copy of that report to review, please. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Rice [01:21:09] Seeing no more questions, thank y’all for being here today. Thank you for taking the questions and giving us information, and we hope to see improvements. Thank you very much. Members, I hope you have a great holiday break and we thank you for attending today. We’re adjourned.