The appropriation for Medicaid services was one of first three measures enacted by the legislature during the 2016 fiscal session.
Not long after the spending bill became law the Senate approved funding for the Office of Medicaid Inspector General.
Since last June, the office has referred 23 cases to the state attorney general, resulting in the arrests of 12 people for Medicaid fraud. So far, six people have been convicted and ordered to pay $26,887 in restitution and $9,300 in fines.
The office was created by the legislature in 2013. According to the attorney general, the most commonly discovered types of Medicaid fraud are billing for services that have not been rendered, billing for unnecessary services and double billing. Also, investigators look for providers who fill prescriptions with generic drugs and bill Medicaid for more expensive brand-name drugs.
All states are required under federal law to have a Medicaid program integrity unit that investigates fraud and conducts audits of state Medicaid programs.
The Arkansas Medicaid program spent more than $5 billion last year through the state Department of Human Services. More than 770,000 Arkansas citizens qualified for some type of Medicaid services.
Also last week, the Senate approved an operating budget for the Division of Children and Family Services, which has about 1,170 employees who investigate cases of children at risk of abuse or neglect. In the final three months of last year there were 8,140 reports of maltreatment of children to the state hotline.
Of those, 82 percent (6,695 cases) were assigned to the Division and 18 percent of the most serious cases were assigned to the State Police.
Of all the cases assigned to the State Police, 34 percent were found to be true. Of all the cases assigned to the Division of Children and Family Services, 20 percent were found to be true. Those cases represent 2,123 children, of whom 64 percent were victims of neglect and 23 percent were victims of abuse, while 21 percent were victims of sexual abuse.
The blueprint for the fiscal session is the governor's balanced budget proposal. It recommends a greater percentage increase in funding for the Division of Children and Family Services than for any other state agency.
In related news, the legislature's Joint Budget Committee recommended approval of the governor's proposal to create two new top level executive positions in the Human Services Department, in anticipation of a re-organization later this year. A department official told legislators that plans for reorganization would be public in a few weeks.
A proposal to significantly increase funding of Arkansas Better Chance, a pre-kindergarten program, failed to clear the committee. The vote was 13-to-22.
Still to be officially determined is whether $1 million in library funding will be restored. Legislative supporters of libraries were hopeful.
Legislative leaders expect to complete the fiscal session the first week in May. The governor has said that when the fiscal session is over, he would call a special session to address funding of highways, using a combination of revenue sources and budget surpluses.