MS-State Medicaid director: Banning Centene contract would be hazardous

MM Curator summary

[MM Curator Summary]: MS Medicaid officials are warning that a legislative removal of the MCO would have very disruptive consequences for members.


The article below has been highlighted and summarized by our research team. It is provided here for member convenience as part of our Curator service.



In this file photo, Drew Snyder, executive director of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, gives an agency update to members of the House Medicaid Committee at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. in 2019.

Rogeio V. Solis | AP

JACKSON • The leader of the state’s Medicaid division on Thursday warned a group of senators that banning contracts between the state and health care companies that have settled lawsuits over fraud allegations would lead to chaos.

The House last week voted to functionally end the state’s contract with health care giant Centene, a company that has been investigated by two state agencies for overcharging Mississippi million of dollars, after a state lawmaker offered an amendment to a separate Medicaid bill.

Drew Snyder, director of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, said the amendment authored by Republican Rep. Becky Currie of Brookhaven would be hazardous and potentially exclude other health care organizations from doing business in the state.

If passed, the amendment would subject 162,328 Medicaid beneficiaries to a hurried reassignment process that would disrupt care services,” Synder said. “It likely would result in litigation against the Division of Medicaid.”

The amendment specifically prohibits the Medicaid division from contracting with any organizations that have settled with the state for more than $50 million over allegations of fraud and misspending. The amendment is clearly targeted toward Centene, though it does not name the company.

As first reported by the Daily Journal, the state attorney general and state auditor investigated Centene and its Mississippi subsidiary, Magnolia Health, for allegedly inflating its bills to the Medicaid division. Centene eventually settled with the state for $55.5 million. Under the agreement, they did not admit fault or wrongdoing.

A communications official from Magnolia Health gave the Daily Journal a list of talking points that its CEO, Aaron Sisk, was expected to deliver to the Senate committee. It’s unclear why representatives from Magnolia Health did not speak at the hearing.

“The final figure of $55 million was the proportion of the national settlement figure agreed upon with plaintiff lawyers and has absolutely no connection to taxpayer money in Mississippi,” the document reads.


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Centene has also settled with five other states after state agencies accused the company of ripping off taxpayers.

In Mississippi’s Medicaid system, Magnolia Health and two other contractors oversee health insurance benefits for about 485,000 of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. The Division of Medicaid pays the companies a set rate per patient.

Health care organizations can reap millions of dollars in tax dollars for managing benefit programs and often vie to secure a state contract.

Centene has injected thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of some of Mississippi’s most powerful politicians and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to prominent lobbyists, according to public documents on the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website.

Mississippi hospital leaders for years have accused managed care organizations of reaping too much money while hospitals in rural communities continue to suffer. Hospital leaders have suggested they could manage the state’s Medicaid benefits at a cheaper cost, offer better quality and keep more money in the state.

At the hearing, Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said he did not understand why the state had not explored the hospital’s plan and given them an opportunity to prove themselves.

“If the people who are complaining are willing to say we’ll take this on … and we can show you that all these complaints we’re making about (managed care) are right and we’ll do it better, why wouldn’t we want to call their bluff?” Bryan asked.

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