Health

Centene sent thousands to Georgia leaders’ campaigns in the face of questions about Medicaid payments


[UPDATED at 9:35 a.m. ET on Oct. 18]

According to campaign finance filings, a giant health insurance company paid out more than $485 million in legal settlements with states over drug billing allegations.

Centene Corp. based in St. Louis said Monday in a statement that it is working to resolve Medicaid payment issues with Georgia and eight other states, in addition to the 13 states it has agreed to pay. In the settlements made public to date, state attorneys general’s offices have been involved in setting the terms of the agreement and have released the amount of the payment.

According to Carr’s campaign filings, Centene-related donations include spending on an event for him in late August.

The attorney general “appreciates his campaign supporters, but all should understand that the attorney general will vigorously defend his client — the people of Georgia — and handle every case before him.” legally, ethically and honestly,” Carr campaign director Neil Bitting said in a statement. Kemp’s campaign declined to comment.

Centene is the parent company of Peach State Health Plan, which provides managed care services to approximately 1 million low-income Georgians enrolled in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids. It is one of three companies that typically receive more than $4 billion, combined, annually from the state to run public health insurance plans.

Centene has settled with 13 states over allegations it overcharged state Medicaid programs for prescription drug services. It paid in total at least $489 million to 10 states, with the remaining three yet to be made public, KHN reported.

A spokesman for Carr’s office said Friday that it is awaiting direction from the state’s Department of Public Health, or DCH, Georgia’s Medicaid agency, before the state pursues an agreement with Centene. “The state is aware of other settlements in other states related to Centene, and the Code understands that DCH is conducting a review of its relevant information,” Kara Richardson said. “When DCH makes a decision, the Legal Department is available to provide legal representation in any potential settlement negotiations or litigation.”

A spokesman for the Department of Public Health, David Graves, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that the agency “can confirm that we will be thoughtful and purposeful with our approach in line with our approach.” How to make sure Georgia taxpayers are best protected.” The governor’s office did not directly respond to questions about possible settlement negotiations.

Centene is the national leader in Medicaid managed care, with more than 15 million members. The company earns about two-thirds of its revenue from Medicaid, which is jointly funded by state and federal taxpayers.

In many states, insurance companies like Centene also manage Medicaid enrollees’ prescription drugs through what’s called a pharmacy benefit manager. These benefit managers act as middlemen between drug manufacturers and health insurers, and as an intermediary between health plans and pharmacies. In some cases, Centene acts as both a Medicaid managed care provider and a pharmacy benefits manager for those plans.

The company, in a statement Monday, said it donates to candidates of both parties and generally supports incumbents: “As a member of the healthcare community, we I work with elected representatives to help improve the quality of care and access to services for the communities we serve. “

Kemp’s re-election campaign has received more than $100,000 in contributions from Centene, its subsidiaries and employees since 2018, according to state campaign filings, with major backing following the districts. settlements are first publicly announced, with Ohio and Mississippi in 2021.

Most of the more than $70,000 of the money Centene donated to Carr’s campaign this year came from company executives, including $10,000 from CEO Sarah London. Carr’s campaign also received $6,000 from Centene’s general counsel Chris Koster, a former Missouri attorney general who signed agreements to pay pharmaceutical bills on behalf of the company.

The majority of Centene-related donations to Carr’s campaign happened in late August, according to campaign records. These include $3,097 for the rental of the venue on August 26 and food expenses of $3,000 on August 24. The latter costs are borne by Kelly Layton, wife of Centene President Brent Layton, a former employee. at the Georgia insurance department, pay. Five out-of-state Centene employees donated a total of $13,000 during that three-day period.

In previously announced agreements, Centene did not admit any wrongdoing. Centene has set aside $1.25 billion in 2021 to settle pharmaceutical benefits administrator settlements in “affected states,” according to a report. Submit application in July with the US Securities and Exchange Commission did not specify how many states were involved.

In January, Wade Rakes, president and chief executive officer of Centene’s Peach State Health Plan subsidiary, warned Public Health officials that the company, after analyzing a pharmaceutical cost report own, “may be obligated to remit money” to the state Medicaid program, under an email that KHN got through a public records request.

William Perry, founder of the Georgia Ethics Watchdog, points out that state law does not prohibit Kemp or Carr from accepting donations from companies like Centene doing business with the state. “They’ll sit there and say they’re not doing anything immoral under the law, but if you’re coming from a morally ethical position, that’s horrible,” he said. “It’s bad optics, and it really makes me sick.”

The campaign of Carr’s Democratic rival in the November election, Jen Jordan, criticized the attorney general for accepting Centene’s contributions to his campaign. A Centene subsidiary donated $1,500 to Jordan in 2019, when she was running for re-election to the Georgia Senate, but the corporation doesn’t appear to support her campaign this cycle. .

“This is another example of how Chris Carr prioritizes special interests over the people of Georgia and the culture of corruption that characterizes the current attorney general’s office,” said Caroline Korba, a spokeswoman for Jordan. ,” Caroline Korba, spokeswoman for Jordan. “Our Attorney General should not be bought and sold.”

A Centene subsidiary has given a total of $6,600 to Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who is fighting Kemp, in three separate donations since 2015, the last in October 2018, during the campaign. Abrams’ previous run for governor.

Maya T. Prabhu is a state government correspondent for the Atlanta Constitution Review.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom specializing in the production of in-depth coverage of health issues. Along with Policy Analysis and Exploration, KHN is one of the three main activities in KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a nonprofit organization privileged to provide information on health issues to the nation.

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