COLUMBUS, Ohio – As the new director of the Ohio Department of Medicaid, Maureen Corcoran said she has heard plenty of criticism that state health care officials under former Gov. John Kasich were not straightforward and transparent.
“There was a perception – is a perception – that maybe in the past, things were presented in a way that was a little bit more rosy than reflecting some of the real difficulties that go along with managing the Medicaid program,” Corcoran said.
In January, shortly before he was sworn in, Gov. Mike DeWine named Corcoran as the new Medicaid director.
Speaking Wednesday at a Columbus heath care forum hosted by the Center for Community Solutions, Corcoran made promises to be direct and provide data. She repeated the same remarks earlier in the day at a budget hearing in an Ohio House committee. She said the criticism has come from “everyone” – including lawmakers and providers.
Sen. Bill Coley, a Cincinnati-area Republican, sometimes got into rounds of arguments with Ohio Medicaid administrators in committee meetings. He said Wednesday he remembers sometimes feeling he was being deceived — or that the deputy directors were misinformed when they were testifying.
“I think Director Corcoran understands the frustrations I and other lawmakers had with her department,” he said, adding that he believes she will be “terrific” in the role.
“We’re going to put out more information, we have different kinds of dashboards we’re going to begin to make public,” she said.
Barbara Sears –who was the last Medicaid director under Kasich and before that, a Republican legislator who sponsored bills for Medicaid expansion — said her department worked to be transparent.
“We worked very diligently to get that information out in the manner (lawmakers) were requesting it,” she said Thursday morning. “There were occasions — and I know there were — when they were requesting something that we simply weren’t able to produce.”
When the data didn’t exist in the form lawmakers requested, Sears said her team met with them and tried to drill down on what they were looking for and found answers.
During Sears’ time at Medicaid, the department undertook several initiatives. Among them, foster children were put under Medicaid managed care insurance companies, the department upgraded the Medicaid eligibility system to work more efficiently with county job and family service agencies that assist people applying for Medicaid, and behavioral health providers began billing managed care organizations — which required new billing codes and computer systems. She ordered studies of Medicaid expansion to provide the state data on its successes, she said.
“These topics are very, very complex,” she said.
Corcoran said her background as a nurse was science-intensive and she wants to provide more data.
“I promised (state lawmakers) that it was important to me that they understand I can’t come up and tell them everything is perfect,” she said. “There is no a health care system in the world that is perfect.
“And by trying to give them a realistic picture of where I saw some of the strengths and weaknesses, that was not a criticism, but it was important that they understand it.”