|Updated: 2/01 4:40 pm
||Published: 2/01 4:38 pm
LITTLE ROCK, AR - A much anticipated report on Medicaid efficiency and possible waste, fraud and abuse did not come out on Friday. But that does not end questions surrounding the program and discussion on how to address the shortfall.
New numbers indicate Medicaid may not be in as bad of shape as once believed. The program provides health insurance for the elderly, disabled and low-income Arkansas children.
Wrapping up the third week of the session, legislators have new numbers regarding the much talked about Medicaid shortfall.
The Department of Human Services confirming the shortfall, that's the amount of money legislators need to find to keep Medicaid services stable, has fallen from $138 million earlier this year to $61 million currently.
That development is met with bipartisan agreement.
"That's great news, yeah," state representative Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) says. "I'm not sure exactly why it's shrinking, but it is shrinking."
"Yeah, really good news," governor Mike Beebe said Friday. "The providers have adapted what they're doing in a fashion that's more efficient."
But there is a sense some of the efficiency could be offset by an audit report detailing significant waste, fraud and abuse of Medicaid.
"It's being put together to show a timeline to show that we may have some issues there in DHS," Westerman, the House majority leader says.
Beebe says if the audit reveals more fraud, DHS needs to fix it.
"In an agency that large, it's hard to detect all of it all the time. There are folks that cheat," Beebe says.
But DHS is not happy with an audit possibly coming out two months ahead of schedule.
Spokesperson Amy Webb says releasing the special report is premature and highly unusual.
"We have never seen a report like this in tone. It uses questionable methodologies to paint the program in the worst light," Webb says.
Speaker of the House Davy Carter (R-Cabot) told reporters Friday he has no concerns about the motives of the Division of Legislative Audit.
"The information is the information. I don't know why we wouldn't want to have it,” Carter told reporters Friday. “I'd rather have it now then at the end of the session, particularly right during this debate."
A debate expected to heat up even more at the Capitol in the next few weeks.