The Columbus Dispatch
The bipartisan Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee wanted answers.
And Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran was summoned to provide them during a special meeting Wednesday in the Statehouse.
After 90 minutes of testimony, leading members of the panel still weren’t satisfied.
Chairman Dave Burke, GOP senator from Marysville who’s also a pharmacist, said a “serious trust issue” remains with Corcoran and the department, which provides health-care coverage for 3 million poor and disabled Ohioans.
Among those issues:
‒ Corcoran asserted that a July 1 deadline for a provisional single pharmacy benefit manager to handle the state’s $3 billion-a-year prescription drug program was merely a benchmark to inform the legislature how the project was going. That was news to Burke and others, who regarded the July 1 date included in the bill passed last year as a deadline for actually implementing the new setup.
“That was a go-live date, not a let’s-see-how-we’re-doing date,” Burke said.
‒ She said authority granted by legislators to pay more starting in early 2019 to pharmacies that provide health-care service beyond dispensing drugs won’t take effect until January of 2021. The agency views the measure OK’d by lawmakers as merely “permissive” and not mandatory.
‒ Corcoran revealed that $100 million allocated starting this past Jan. 1 by the legislature to bolster pharmacies with a high caseload of Medicaid recipients has been put on indefinite hold because of budget cuts ordered by Gov. Mike DeWine.
Burke was almost sputtering as he searched for words to describe the department’s lack of action to carry out items approved by the legislature, including the state budget.
“We passed the bill in its entirety. The governor signed the bill in its entirety. So either that means something in its entirety or it doesn’t,” he said.
“We have to stand up. I mean, we do pass the laws and these laws have meaning. And you can’t just pick the laws you like and implement those and say, well, that’s legislative authority, and the ones you don’t like you never implement and say, well, we’re getting there, we have a budget issue or it’s COVID or they ran out of cupcakes in the vending machine.”
‒ The director was peppered with questions about the department’s request for proposals for the single PBM. Corcoran responded to some but said she wasn’t prepared to answer others.
Sen. Bill Coley, a Republican lawyer from southwest Ohio, said the proposal has such loose language he “could drive a truck” through the loopholes.
“We’re going to get hosed on this thing. I just really see it,” he said.
Corcoran surprised the oversight panel by saying yet another contract will be signed with an entity — possibly another PBM — that will have the job of monitoring the single PBM.
The gathering was called after an Aug. 2 Dispatch story detailed the mystery surrounding a 2019 report by a Medicaid consultant hired to look at state reforms designed to rein in PBMs rolling up huge profits at the state’s — and Ohio pharmacies’ — expense.
The Dispatch pointed out how top department officials — including Corcoran herself — denied for several months that any earlier versions of the consultant’s report existed. They finally fulfilled a Dispatch public records request for such material last month, more than a year after it was filed.
The department’s spokesman also had denied for three months that the consultant’s report had been submitted. When confronted with that falsehood, Corcoran told The Dispatch that the original report dated June 28, 2019, “reflected when the (consultant’s) analytic work was completed, not when the final report was produced and delivered to us.”
She repeated that defense Wednesday after Burke began the meeting by reading a large portion of the story out loud. But as she did then, Corcoran did not address her false denials that an earlier versions of the report existed.
When the study — plus additional analytical material added by department officials — was finally released at the end of September, so much material had been removed that it was down to 20 pages from the 27 in the June original.
Several lawmakers expressed fury because they feel they were misled by Medicaid officials about the study as well. The oversight panel is made up of a bipartisan mix of five senators and five representatives. Continue Reading