Mayor Bowser’s administration extends Medicaid contract against a judge’s ruling

More than 250,000 D.C. residents who rely on Medicaid won’t have to worry about losing health insurance, as Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration extended all three of its provider contracts, going against a judge’s order.

Through the mayor’s emergency order, her administration extended the contracts, including one with MedStar Health that was set to expire at the end of the month, according to Deputy Mayor Wayne Turnage.

The nine-month contract extension will give the city time to restart the bidding process and come to an agreement for future Medicaid coverage.

Bowser issued a health emergency Wednesday, which enabled city officials to do what was “necessary and appropriate” to avoid the loss of coverage and gave them the power to enter into contracts.

Last year, a Contract Appeals Board judge found that MedStar did not meet the requirements to earn the Medicaid contract it was awarded and called the contract ineligible. Last month, MedStar alerted other subcontractors that it would not serve any Medicaid patients outside a hospital.

At-Large Council member Elissa Silverman and Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie wrote to D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, asking his office to look into whether MedStar’s notice to other companies violates anti-trust laws. Before the announcement of contract extensions, Silverman confirmed that Racine’s office is investigating the insurance provider’s actions.

“Basically what Medstar is saying is that, ‘Unless the District gives us the contract for our Medicaid insurance provider, we’re not going to play ball with the District and its other Medicaid contractors. So we’re going to refuse to serve Medicaid patients unless we get this big contract worth lots of money,'” Silverman told WTOP.

Silverman said that she does not want to lose sight of the big picture — making sure that D.C.’s most vulnerable residents who rely on Medicaid for their insurance have access to a health care network of facilities and providers.

“I just don’t think it’s right that MedStar can say, ‘You know what, unless we have our way, we refuse to serve these people,'” Silverman said.

In response to the administration’s announcement, Medstar Health spokesperson Marianne Worley issued a statement thanking Bowser and her team for their decision to continue to support comprehensive care.

“It is important to note that the Administrative Law judge’s decision never said that MedStar Health violated any District procurement law or regulation. His decision was completely focused on the technical compliance of the District’s review of plan submissions. MedStar Health responded truthfully and completely to the District’s last request for proposal, and we intend to do the same for the upcoming RFP,” Worley said, noting the insurer’s interest in participating in competing for future Medicaid contracts.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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