The complexities of Medicaid often contribute to the confusion of the program. Here, we break down some of the numbers for Mississippi Medicaid.
Dustin Barnes/The Clarion-Ledger
Public records documenting the Mississippi Division of Medicaid’s actions leading up to its award of a $2 billion contract remain shielded from public view.
The judge who will decide whether Medicaid acted appropriately in awarding the managed care contract first ordered no more evidence be presented, without his written approval, in the case.
Then, on the request of Medicaid and one company who won the contract, Hinds County Chancery Court Judge William Singletary temporarily sealed the stack of public records attorneys said would show Medicaid Director David Dzielak violated conflict of interest laws.
The public records were entered into the case for identification but not into evidence. They never appeared on the docket.
Singletary said records would be sealed for seven days to give Medicaid time to review them. But a sealing order was never filed. The week passed. On Wednesday, the records were nowhere to be found at the courthouse and Singletary and his staff were on vacation.
“I’ve never had a situation of this sort and I’ve been here 12 years,” said Cynthia Hill-Acox, the court administrator. “The clerk is not going to be able to give you something that’s not been filed.”
Last week, Medicaid withdrew it’s objection to the records being unsealed.
Another hearing in the case has yet to be scheduled.
Singletary said he wanted Medicaid’s administrative process for dealing with contract protests to run its course before “wading further” into the issue in court.
The Public Service Contract Review Board, which will review Medicaid’s procurement of the managed care contract, has given the agency another week to submit its response to protests from companies who lost. The board will review the matter in September.
Last week, Medicaid provided The Clarion-Ledger emails in which Dzielak discussed job opportunities with representatives from Molina Healthcare, who won its share of a $2 billion contract from Medicaid. The correspondence included details about the position Molina were to hire if they won the work in Mississippi, a year before the company won Medicaid’s managed care contract.
If it were up to the court, that information would still be shielded.
George Ritter, the attorney for losing non-profit bidder Mississippi True, came to a court hearing in the case Aug. 14 with a pile of records he obtained the week before through a public records request with Medicaid.
Because there was no one to testify to what the records said — Singletary had denied Mississippi True’s subpoena for Dzielak to appear in court — the documents were only entered for identification, not as evidence.
Ritter’s attempt to present a wealth of documents on short notice may have been predicted.
At the end of his Aug. 10 order quashing Mississippi True’s subpoena of Dzielak to appear in court, Singletary wrote: “The Court further orders that the Hinds County Chancery Clerk has received all filings that shall be had in this matter without further leave of Court. Accordingly, no additional findings shall be had herein by any party without express written permission of the Court.”
Medicaid and Molina argued they didn’t have enough time during the day of the hearing to review the records to see if any information was privileged. Singletary sealed the records for seven days through an oral order in court.
On Wednesday, seven business days after the hearing, nothing had been filed into the docket — no records, no sealing order — and the paper file for the case was absent from its shelf in the chancery court record room.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Hill-Acox said.
Constitutional law expert Matt Steffey said the records Ritter tried to present should be in the official court file.
“Whoever has quote-un-quote the file should have them, but sometimes the court reporter checks out the file. Sometimes the judge checks out the file,” Steffey said.
The judge and his court reporter will be back from vacation Sept. 5.