- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 26, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A judge has ordered the Arkansas Department of Human Services to publish statistics related to its failures in assessing needs of disabled Medicaid recipients.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen also referred two department attorneys and a top agency official to the Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct to determine whether they’re competent to continue representing the agency in the case, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

The Monday sanctions came in response to the department’s enactment of an emergency rule last month allowing it to continue using an algorithm to allocate hours of home-based care to about 8,800 people served by the ARChoices program. The new system resulted in reductions in hours for many recipients.

The emergency rule came after Griffen’s May 14 order barring the department from using the algorithm until rules authorizing its use had been “properly promulgated.” The Administrative Procedure Act allows such rules to be enacted without public notice in response to “an imminent peril to the public health, safety or welfare” or to comply with a federal law or regulation.

Griffen suspended the rule a week later and found the department in contempt of court, saying the agency’s allegation it can’t allow nurses to use discretion in awarding hours is “the latest example of DHS defiance of the (May 14 order), its callous disregard for the rule of law, and its calculated disingenuous representations to this court, the disabled community it is legally obligated to serve and the general public.”

The judge ordered the department to publish on its website within five days the number of people assessed or reassessed by its nurses each month before 2016 and the number it has “failed or refused to reassess each month” since February 2017, when Griffen issued a temporary order barring the department from reducing the care hours allotted to seven recipients named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by Legal Aid of Arkansas.

As of Monday, the department had a backlog of more than 1,100 applications that had not been processed and 1,400 program participants overdue for evaluations, spokeswoman Amy Webb said.

The department plans to appeal the May 14 order to the state Supreme Court. Webb said the agency will comply with the latest order.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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