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The director of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid talked about job opportunities with executives — one he called a friend — for a company his agency eventually awarded a $2 billion contract.
Molina Healthcare officials said they asked Medicaid Director David Dzielak to help them find candidates for leadership positions with its Mississippi Medicaid health plan — a year before they got the contract and months before the department advertised for the Mississippi Medicaid managed care contract.
Emails between Dzielak and Molina officials were uncovered as a result of a lawsuit filed against Medicaid by losing bidders. Lawyers for companies that lost to Molina say the company offered Dzielak a job, creating a conflict of interest.
Conversations between Dzielak and Molina included the salary and benefit details for the local position the company would create if it won the billion-dollar contract in Mississippi.
“The Plan President Position salary range is $186K to $345K (salary only) depending on qualification factors. Short and long term benefits would be in addition,” Dave Boim, Molina’s associate vice president of business development, wrote in an email to Dzielak in August 2016. “We would also be looking for a COO which would be the President’s operations leader.”
In June, Molina did win (alongside incumbent providers UnitedHealthcare and Magnolia Health) and began advertising on its website for the “Plan President” job in August.
George Ritter, attorney for Mississippi True, a losing proposer suing over the contract award, obtained the emails and claimed they showed a job offer to Dzielak.
Dzielak did have an email conversation about a potential job for him with a Molina executive. But Dzielak said this was about a Medicaid director position opening in another state. He said he and this Molina executive are friends, and she was just telling him about a job opening in which he might be interested.
“I decided not to send in my information. The compensation is going to be an issue,” Dzielak wrote in an email to Gwen Williams, Molina Healthcare vice president of business development, in January 2015. “As such, if I really don’t want the job then the fact I applied may get out and that would create an issue for me in my current position. Thanks for the heads up though; I really appreciate it and your support.”
Dzielak explained the exchange with Williams on Tuesday.
“One email referenced was simply a friend, who used to be the Medicaid Director for
another state, passing along information to me about a director position in Washington,
D.C., being open,” Dzielak said in a written statement. “This type of information is routinely shared with current and former state directors for a variety of different reasons.”
A LinkedIn account for Williams shows she served as commissioner of Alabama Medicaid between 1978 and 1999.
“I fully understand and think that’s a wise decision,” Williams responded to Dzielak’s 2015 email. “I’ll keep my eyes and ears open. You never know what will turn up in the future.”
Regardless how it looks, Dzielak was never offered a job by Molina, officials from Medicaid and Molina argued after the emails and other documents were sealed in court Monday at the request of Medicaid. Medicaid eventually turned over the emails to The Clarion-Ledger on Tuesday afternoon.
“The statements made regarding the emails do not correctly represent the substance of the communications between Molina and Dr. Dzielak in the two emails,” said a statement Molina sent Tuesday.
Ritter obtained the emails through a public records request that yielded 28,000 records. Medicaid required Ritter to put down a $30,000 deposit, an estimated cost for the division to hire outside legal counsel to review the records. The request only cost $8,000 and Medicaid said Ritter will be reimbursed for the difference.
Ritter would not comment Tuesday regarding the emails since they are still technically under seal by a judge’s order.
In the August 2016 email exchange, Boim had followed up with Dzielak after a recent lunch visit.
After recommending a moving company in Richmond, Virginia, to the director (that Dzielak explained was for his mother), Boim described the “Plan President Position” salary, then said, “I will follow up on the Value Based discussion tomorrow.”
Value based describes an approach to managed care that includes incentive payments to health care providers based on the quality of care they provide.
His exchanges with Boim, Dzielak said, were nothing more than “part of a discussion I had with a Molina representative about what Molina might expect regarding doing business in Mississippi if it were to submit a proposal in response to the MississippiCAN RFP. Again, these are the sorts of discussions that are routinely held with entities considering entering the business market in our state. This is not unusual and most likely I had similar conversations with representatives of the other offerors who were considering a first foray into Mississippi. However, to be clear, there was no job offer and I did not inquire about a job with Molina, or anyone else involved in the RFP process.”
Medicaid signed Molina’s contract on June 30 (despite receiving protests from losing companies on June 29), but it is not valid until approved by Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
“Nothing in any of the emails brought to the court’s attention yesterday violated
any ethics rules or created a conflict of interest for Dr. Dzielak. Both Dr. Dzielak and the Division are absolutely committed to having the most qualified contractors in place for the state’s MississippiCAN program,” said Kathryn Gilchrist, outside counsel to the Division of Medicaid.