An “epic story of academic intrigue” has ended in a $620,000 payout to a University of Kentucky professor who claimed he was fired over criticism of Gov. Matt Bevin’s changes to Medicaid dental benefits.
Dr. Raynor Mullins alleged in his suit that he was fired by dean of the UK College of Dentistry, Dr. Stephanos Kyrkanides, after he and other colleagues filed public comments in 2016 opposing Bevin’s plan to overhaul Medicaid and eliminate basic dental and vision coverage.
Those changes stand to affect up to 500,000 of the 1.4 million Kentuckians covered by the state-federal health plan.
Kyrkanides told Mullins that Bevin was angry over the comments, according to the lawsuit.
In the agreement, neither UK nor Mullins admitted any wrongdoing.
“Both parties have reached a settlement and desire to resolve their disputes in a positive manner,” reads a joint statement included in the agreement. “Just as important, the resolution only serves to strengthen our shared commitment to the University of Kentucky’s mission and goals to improve health in the Commonwealth. Oral health and its relationship with overall health and well-being are critically important issues that need and deserve our full commitment.”
They declined further comment, saying they intend to “focus squarely on these shared goals moving forward.”
Mullins will be paid $260,000 by Dec. 14, $177,000 in the first half of January 2019 and an additional $183,000 in January 2020, per the agreement.
UK spokesman Jay Blanton confirmed Mullins will be back at the university in 2019.
“Dr. Mullins will be returning to the university, but we’re still finalizing what that will be,” he said Monday.
Mullins filed the federal lawsuit in August 2017. In September, U.S. District Judge Robert Wier allowed the case to proceed to trial, calling it an “epic story of academic intrigue.”
The parties met in early November to hammer out a settlement, which was finalized last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
According to the suit, the dean consulted with other faculty members on the best way to “get rid” of Mullins and then fired him from his post-retirement job at the UK Center for Oral Health Research.
Mullins alleged Kyrkanides told him it was a very bad strategy to upset the governor.
The decision to cut dental and vision care from standard Medicaid benefits was controversial, as Kentucky has a high rate of dental decay and disease and conditions often detected through routine eye exams, including high blood pressure and diabetes.
Kyrkanides disputed the lawsuit’s claims, and a Bevin spokeswoman said last year they knew nothing about the allegations.
Mullins said last year it wasn’t an easy decision to file the lawsuit, as he had “great affection” for both the university and the state. But he was motivated by a desire to “inject transparency” into the circumstances surrounding his departure, he said.
Lexington lawyer Joe Childers, who represented Mullins, declined further comment on the settlement on Monday.
Meanwhile, state officials announced in November that Kentucky is moving forward with plans to revamp the Medicaid program, following the approval of Kentucky’s plan by the Trump administration and federal officials.
The plans add work or volunteer requirements to keep health benefits through Medicaid as well as other changes sought by the governor, which are expected to start in April.
Those affected by Bevin’s changes will lose basic dental and vision coverage, but they can purchase the care by earning points through a “My Rewards program” in which they participate in activities such as volunteering or taking online classes.
Reporter Deborah Yetter contributed to this report. Reporter Matthew Glowicki can be reached at 502-582-4989 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/mattg.
Read or Share this story: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/10/kentucky-professor-fired-after-criticizing-bevins-medicaid-reform-get-620-k-lawsuit/2263512002/