Bowser Admin. Tried to Sidestep Judge’s Ruling on D.C. Medicaid Contract

Bizar Male

At the end of December, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage came to D.C. councilmembers with an emergency. The District’s Medicaid contract, which, at $1.5 billion, is among the largest that the D.C. government hands out, was in trouble.

Turnage lobbied councilmembers on emergency legislation that would essentially sidestep a Contract Appeals Board ruling on the District’s violation of procurement law and create an exemption for MedStar, one of the three companies chosen to manage health care for Medicaid beneficiaries. The goal, he says, was to avoid yanking 67,000 of the most “medically fragile” residents from one health insurance plan to another twice in one year.

“My view, and the mayor’s instruction to me, was we need to make sure we’re not being too disruptive to the residents of D.C. who are on Medicaid and are reliant on the program,” Turnage says.

Turnage’s proposed legislation was never formally introduced, and he says he’s working with Bowser’s advisors on another potential solution. He declined to elaborate.

Turnage’s failed proposal, and his continued search for a way to prevent further disruption for Medicaid enrollees, comes after a judge found that the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement broke the law when it awarded the contract to three companies, just as it did in 2017.

In June of 2020, OCP picked MedStar, CareFirst, and AmeriHealth to manage health care for D.C.’s Medicaid enrollees. In July, Amerigroup, which was replaced by MedStar in the new contract, filed a protest with the Contract Appeals Board. On Oct. 1, while Amerigroup’s case was still pending, D.C. began shuffling some 175,600 Medicaid beneficiaries to new health plans.

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