Medicaid contractors in Louisiana are searching slower than planned | Louisiana News


By MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press

Louisiana’s recent search for contractors to manage the health services of nearly 1.6 million Medicaid patients has been taking longer than expected, and has passed since the contract announcement in early November.

The last bidding process launched by the government of Governor John Bel Edwards for the multi-billion dollar Medicaid managed care contracts derailed in a legal battle two years ago. The Louisiana Department of Health has used emergency contracts to keep current managed care businesses in place while evaluating new offerings.

The Health Department published its call for proposals in June from contractors interested in running the taxpayer-funded Medicaid work. The deadline for submissions was September 10th. At the time of preparing the offer, the agency published a schedule in which it was planned to announce the award of the contract “on or around” on November 5th.

This announcement was not made.

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Health Department spokesman Kevin Litten said the agency hopes to direct its recommendations to the Office of State Procurement, which is overseeing the bidding process, by the end of this week.

“The expected deadline, first announced for the managed care organization bidding process, was an approximate timeframe, and LDH has continued that process over the past month,” Litten said in a statement. “The department is finalizing our internal assessments.”

The managed care contracts make up about a quarter of Louisiana’s annual operating budget and provide healthcare for a third of Louisiana’s residents. They allow private companies to oversee health services for approximately 90% of Medicaid members in Louisiana – mostly adults covered by the Medicaid expansion program, pregnant women, and children.

The new contracts will be awarded for up to five years and, according to the call for tenders, should begin around the beginning of the new budget year in July.

Pending the selection of new contractors, the health department has continued its existing emergency contracts with the five companies currently managing Medicaid services: Aetna Better Health, AmeriHealth Caritas of Louisiana, Healthy Blue, Louisiana Healthcare Connections, and United Healthcare of Louisiana.

Department of Health Secretary Courtney Phillips announced in August that she would repeat the search for Medicaid managed care contractors instead of continuing a lawsuit over the deals approved by her predecessor.

The previous bidding process began in early 2019 under the then secretary Rebekah Gee. Four companies have been selected for Medicaid’s managed care work – three of the insurance companies that already have contracts with the health department and one new contractor. The contracts would have been valued at $ 21 billion over three years.

But two losing bidders, who are currently doing the managed care work that should lose their lucrative contracts, Louisiana Healthcare Connections and Aetna Better Health, protested and objected to the bidding process and the award of the contract.

After reviewing the protests, the Louisiana state procurement officer withdrew, finding that the Department of Health had mishandled the bidding process and failed to comply with state laws or the agency’s own assessment guidelines.

The health department and the four insurance companies selected for the Medicaid deals initially appealed this decision. But Phillips decided it was best to start the process from scratch when she became Secretary of Health just before the coronavirus pandemic began and the Medicaid roles in Louisiana grew.

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