Louisiana appears to be shelling out millions of dollars more for Medicaid patients’ prescription drugs than it pays to pharmacies, with the extra money pocketed by private companies managing the patients’ care.

A task force created by lawmakers is searching for waste in Louisiana’s $12.5 billion Medicaid program and wants more details on how those deals work — and how much money the state is steering to middle-managers above what the pharmacists receive.

The task force wrote to the health department Wednesday, questioning whether pharmacists are getting low Medicaid reimbursements to help boost profits for private companies that coordinate health services for 90 percent of Louisiana’s Medicaid patients.

The letter cited a recent independent audit done for the Department of Health that identified at least $42 million in drug charges for Medicaid patients that were kept by private companies after pharmacists were paid for filling prescriptions.

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Is Louisiana Medicaid drug spending inflated?