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Company accused of overcharging Mississippians a prominent donor to state leaders

Centene Management Company LLC has donated over $100K to Reeves and several other politicians.
Gov. Tate Reeves
Gov. Tate Reeves
Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 2:54 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The largest Medicaid contractor in the U.S., who just agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement with Mississippi, has made big political contributions over the last few years.

State campaign finance reports show Centene donated over $100,000 to then-Lt. Governor Tate Reeves from 2017-2019.

But the donations didn’t end with the governor.

The Secretary of State’s website also shows tens of thousands of dollars contributed to many other political campaigns, including Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, and Mike Chaney, Commissioner of Insurance for the State of Mississippi.

Monday, the attorney general and auditor’s office announced a $55.5 million settlement with Centene, claiming the company charged Medicaid more than the allowed price.

The auditor’s office said they launched an investigation in 2019 after suspicion that Centene’s pharmacy benefits management company was inflating its bills.

The investigation revealed Mississippi’s Medicaid service was being charged more than the contractually allowed price caps for certain drugs and services, the auditor’s office said.

The agreement is one of the largest civil settlements following an investigation by the auditor’s office in Mississippi’s history.

In its settlement agreements with Mississippi and Ohio, Centene does not acknowledge any wrongdoing, releasing a statement that says in part, “We respect the deep and critically important relationships we have with our state partners. Putting these issues behind us allows us to continue our relentless focus on delivering high-quality outcomes to our members.”

But State Auditor Shad White implied the Centene-owned company’s business dealings in Mississippi haven’t been fair.

“I do not care how large or powerful the company is; Mississippi taxpayers deserve to get what they paid for when the state spends money on prescription drugs, and we will stand up for the taxpayers if they do not get a square deal,” State Auditor Shad White said. “I’m grateful for the joint work between my staff, the data analysts, and the Attorney General’s team for bringing this to a conclusion.”

The settlement also calls for Centene to “provide full transparency related to the adjudication and payment of all pharmacy benefit claims, including the provision of such information as is required to permit the Department of Medicaid to discern, on a claims level, the exact amount paid to the pharmacy for each pharmaceutical claim.”

Leah Rupp Smith, deputy chief of staff for Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, responded in a statement, “We have not accepted donations from Centene since 2017. Prior to this date, the Secretary of State campaign received $13,000 from Centene, which were donated to The Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.”

The governor, nor the insurance commissioner has responded to our request for a statement.

The Mississippi Division of Medicaid, an agency under the governor’s office, currently holds the contract with Centene.

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