A close and longtime friend of Governor Mike DeWine signed up earlier this year to lobby on behalf of a giant Medicaid provider – just before Attorney General Dave Yost accused the company of scamming tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.
The St. Louis-based company Centene then agreed to pay Ohio $ 88 million and another $ 1 billion to other states. But the Medicaid department and the governor’s office still won’t say whether Michael Kiggin, a friend of DeWine and a lobbyist for Centene, helped the company keep its massive Ohio contract despite the fraud allegations.
In response to a written communication request between Kiggin and the government, the Medicaid department said last month it was unable to research them. Then he ignored questions attempting to clarify the matter – even though the Ohio Open Records Act requires it to help clarify claims.
The DeWine administration was already struggling with major corruption issues when Yost continued Centene in March.
In July 2020, federal authorities arrested former House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates on charges that Akron-based FirstEnergy funneled $ 61 million to them through 501 (c) (4) black money groups and they used the money to pass a $ 1.3 billion law. It bailed out aging nuclear and coal plants, gutted renewable energy standards and provided a $ 100 million a year grant to FirstEnergy.
DeWine signed the law. His representative on the Public Services Commission was forced to resign amid disclosures he took a payment of $ 4 million from FirstEnergy. And DeWine’s director of legislative affairs – a former FirstEnergy lobbyist who started one of the black money groups – resigned at the end of last month.
Centene’s Buckeye Health Plan manages billions of Medicaid money each year as it manages health care on behalf of Ohio Medicaid beneficiaries. In his lawsuit, the attorney general accused the company of piling pharmacy middlemen on top of each other and using the resulting lack of transparency to massively overcharge the state with prescription drugs.
Centene has never admitted wrongdoing, but the $ 88 million it pays the state speaks loud enough, Yost said.
“I will accept an apology note that has so many zeros behind it”, he said in june when he announced the settlement.
If this is true, then the over $ 1 billion set aside to settle potential lawsuits in 21 other states is even more of an excuse. Ohio was the only state to sue the nation’s largest Medicaid managed care company, and it appears to have discovered a practice used in many others.
Given the allegations of massive fraud against Ohio taxpayers – and given the unrepentant CEO of Centene, $ 25 million a year, said his # 1 priority was to earn even more money in the future – many were surprised when the Ohio Department of Medicaid announced in August that it relaunch his huge contract with the company.
Shortly after the announcement, Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran appeared in WOSU’s “All Sides With Ann Fisher”.
When Fisher asked Corcoran why she would do business with a company that State AG accused of stealing from taxpayers, Corcoran dodged a series of disjointed and non-responsive responses. When Fisher asked if Kiggin, Friend of DeWine and lobbyist of Centene, contacted Corcoran or his team, she said no.
Responses to requests for open files have questioned the veracity of Corcoran in the past.
In an attempt to verify his claim with Fisher, the Capital Journal filed on August 24 a claim under the Ohio Open Records Act for all written communications – including text messages – between Kiggin and the office. Governor and between Kiggin and the Medicaid department since he registered as a Centene lobbyist in January.
Three weeks later, Medicaid attorney J. Andrew Stevens responded by saying the demand was “too broad” – a claim frequently made by Ohio officials when the press requests documents under the Act. state law. But he also claimed that the Medicaid department did not have the means to conduct the research.
“Regarding your request for all written communications, including text messages, Medicaid is not able to electronically search for these documents,” Stevens said in a letter that did not include his email address. nor his phone number. “Accordingly, Medicaid denies these claims as being ambiguous and too broad.”
The 2021 Attorney General’s Handbook on Ohio Sun Laws outlines a process for solving such dilemmas, assuming they actually exist. He said that “the Public Archives Law expressly encourages cooperation to clarify and restrict ambiguous or overly broad requests, in order to draft a successful revised request.”
Since Stevens did not include his contact details, the September 21 Capital Journal followed up with Corcoran and the governor’s office to try to clarify why the government thought it couldn’t respond. was Stevens saying Medicaid cannot search e-mail or text messages, some e-mail or text messages, or all e-mail but not text messages?
If either of these were the case, agencies were asked, what stops Medicaid officials from simply drafting communications using media they know will be hidden from the public? ?
Almost two weeks later, these questions remain unanswered.
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