LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Monday was the first meeting of the 89th General Assembly for the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus.
While the group highlighted many topics for discussion during this year's session, the big one is Medicaid. Lawmakers are deciding how to solve a Medicaid budget shortfall and whether to expand the program under the federal health care law.
"We want to look at how Medicaid will be affecting the state, what issues that affect the African American community, but also Arkansas in general," said Rep. Frederick Love, chair of the Arkansas Black Caucus.
The Republican leader of the Arkansas House said his party is still working on legislation to change the state's Medicaid system.
Representative Bruce Westerman said he believes fraud and abuse are major problems in the system based on anecdotal evidence he has seen.
"As other members have talked to constituents, we're told continually of issues in the Medicaid system where it's being taken advantage of. We're aggressively looking at those claims. We believe it's a bigger problem than what's being talked about right now," said Westerman.
Republicans in general have opposed the expansion because they contend it would cost the state money at a time its Medicaid program faces a funding shortfall.
Representative Westerman did say they believe the shortfall is less than anticipated and that they expect to be able to go along with a partial expansion due to surplus funds.