When A Crony Ain’t A Homie, No More
by Kenneth Cooper
In Louisiana where there’s no crisis the state can’t make worse, you probably haven’t heard that latest. Last year about 1.5 million people almost lost their Medicaid coverage, and as it stands today, their coverage remains in doubt. This all started because healthcare officials let a coverage dispute turn into a shady bidding process, which culminated with one of their evaluators allegedly falling asleep during a bid presentation, and the company with the losing bid filing a protest. In other words, the beef between Louisiana Healthcare Connections (LHCC) and the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is still spilling out into the street. There are billions of dollars involved – about $21 billion over 3 years to be exact – so don’t expect either side to voluntarily squash it in the best interest of the people who depend on Medicaid coverage.
In the good ole days, like up until last year, LHCC was the state’s biggest Medicaid insurer, enjoying a multibillion-dollar contract to provide insurance for about ¼ of all Medicaid enrollees – top dog status.
But according to the LHCC protest, there was “an ongoing dispute over a health care policy designed to reduce the number of preventable hospital readmissions and improve the quality of hospital care,” which sounds like another way of saying an ongoing dispute over them trying to limit coverage. This dispute apparently reached petty status, and when the contract was up and it was time to re-bid, the LDH altered its evaluation criteria to box LHCC out, according to LHCC.
However, the LDH evaluators left an email trail which LHCC obtained, and immediately turned them over the to the state procurement office, which promptly suspended the results of the bidding process. (As for the evaluator who fell asleep during the presentation, there’s absolutely no proof that she also works for the Sewerage & Water Board.) The procurement decision meant the LDH couldn’t award new contracts, which means it couldn’t provide coverage — to about 1.5 million people. Luckily, they were allowed to issue a one-year emergency renewal of the existing contracts. And that’s where the state stands now, with a ¼ of its budget in financial limbo.
Yes, I agree. This is pretty trifling. It’s like climate change. On the surface all appears well. People on Medicaid are continuing to go on like nothing is happening, but meanwhile under the surface, there’s a whole lot of man-made (state-made?) polluting of the process that makes their Medicaid possible. You have to just love Louisiana! It has a unique gift at being the best of the worst at almost everything.
Somehow, I don’t’ think this will end with a lot of kissing and making-up. There are still billions of dollars, a couple of hundred jobs, and a lot of pride at stake, which means this will most likely end up spilling out into court. But that’s life in Louisiana. In the state that sense forgot, a crony can no longer be a homie, just like that.