Lawmakers continue examining how to best shape Department of Health and Human Resources

Members of the state Legislature continued examining the structure of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, getting under the hood of the enormous agency prior to a possible reorganization.

Cindy Beane

Cindy Beane, commissioner for the West Virginia Bureau for Medical Services, spoke before lawmakers Monday afternoon during interim meetings in Morgantown. She appeared before the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability. Generally, that bureau oversees the Medicaid program in West Virginia.

Beane spent about an hour describing the organization’s structure and hierarchy. Some of her discussion got into the number of employees and vacancies over recent years for the bureau. And she provided information about the agency’s budget of state and federal dollars.

She noted that lawmakers asked in advance, “Is there duplication and overlap within the functions of what you do and the different bureaus within the department?”

Her answer: “It’s not so much duplication and overlap as more of a partnership.” For example, she said, the Bureau for Family Assistance processes applications for services like Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. “So it’s kind of a one-stop shop for a constituent who is in need of Medicaid services.”

Another question posed by lawmakers was, “Does the Bureau recommend that we continue Medicaid and its bureaus, or should anything be consolidated or terminated?”

“I feel of course that we should continue the Medicaid program,” Beane responded. “Then, with regards to consolidated or terminated — with consolidation, it is moreso partnerships. I think you’ll see between the MOUs (memorandums of understanding) and the partnerships, the Medicaid program partners with quite a few other bureaus within the department. And with regard to termination, we do not feel that needs to happen.”

Lawmakers during the regular legislative session kicked off an examination of how DHHR could be more efficient and responsive. A bipartisan coalition of state legislators passed a bill during the most recent regular session to divide the agency into the Department of Health and the Department of Human Resources.

They said experience had taught them the state’s largest agency is just too unwieldy to get a handle on its operations or finances.

Gov. Jim Justice vetoed the bill, saying a restructuring needs a longer, more careful examination.

“So I am vetoing this bill,” Justice announced then. “But I am also going to engage with national experts and industry leaders to coordinate and complete a top-to-bottom review of the DHHR, so that we may clearly identify its issues, bottlenecks, and inefficiencies.

“We will work to develop a plan to address any and all problems, which may very well require a full reorganization of the agency. But we will do so in an effective and efficient way, so we can make sure there is no lapse in any vital support or services for the West Virginians who rely on the DHHR.”

Last week, state officials opened bids from two national consulting firms vying to head up the top-to-bottom review of DHHR.

West Virginia received applications for that job from McChrystal Group, named for former U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and DHG Healthcare, a subsidiary of Dixon Hughes Goodman.

The two firms that applied each touted their expertise and track records to be able to handle that job over a 17-week period.

Secretary Bill Crouch

DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch last month told legislators that he will support the review and its findings.

“I want to make it clear that regardless of what that recommendation is, I’m supportive,” he said. “I have no reason not to be. The whole idea is to improve the services to the State of West Virginia, to improve the services to the people of West Virginia.”

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