DC Council expected to extend Medicaid benefits via emergency contract

The long and winding path D.C. lawmakers have taken to ensure more than 250,000 residents don’t lose Medicaid benefits is nearing the finish line.

The council is expected to vote on extending contracts for three companies for nine months, giving the District just enough time to complete the process all over again.

“Needless to say there’s been a lot of controversy about this,” D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration has essentially dealt with legal concerns over the contracts with three companies to provide Medicaid benefits by re-evaluating each of them, Mendelson said.

“The mayor has rescored the contracts and two of them, Amerihealth and Carefirst, came out on top in the rescoring,” he said.



The council will approve a separate emergency contract for MedStar Health, which indicated that it did not score third in the administration’s reevaluation. Bowser’s office did not comment on when the reevaluation was completed or where Medstar Health scored.

WTOP reached out to Medstar Health for comment on the anticipated emergency contract extension.

“I think the guiding principles of this solution are avoiding the destabilizing of reassigning folks. Moving forward with a new procurement, it allows any bidder to bid going forward,” Mendelson said of lawmakers’ desire to ensure Medicaid patients were not reassigned to new doctors and risk a lapse in reliable medical care.

The vote before the council extends all three contracts for just nine months, which Mendelson said will give the District time to put out bids and select the health care companies that will provide Medicaid benefits in the future.

“And she has said that can be done in nine months. We are saying it has to be done in nine months. And so I believe the votes are there for this solution to the controversy, which will enable contracts to continue largely uninterrupted or with less risk of disruption,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie has introduced a bill expected to be discussed by the council on Tuesday that would attempt to avoid any one company providing Medicaid benefits from raising the costs of other companies by refusing to participate in universal contract pricing.

In August, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage told WTOP that Medstar Health had informed the two smaller contractors providing Medicaid benefits that if it did not have a contract with the city, it would not provide Medicaid coverage at all. Days later, the mayor declared a state of emergency to allow her administration to enter into a contract with Medstar Health to continue benefits. However, the council issued a resolution of disapproval out of concern that the move would not hold up if challenged in court.

“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,’” At-Large Council member Elissa Silverman told WTOP at the time.

Mendelson sees the contract extension as a necessary, albeit imperfect solution.

“You know, sometimes in government, it’s incumbent that we find a solution, rather than just stick to a position that doesn’t get anything done,” Mendelson said.

Megan Cloherty

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

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