Medicaid director owned stock in companies she awarded huge contracts

By: - May 17, 2022 4:00 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio — OCTOBER 27: Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran (left) before the start of the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee Meeting at the Ohio Statehouse, October 27, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal.)

Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran won’t discuss them, but state ethics filings she submitted on Sunday showed that she continued to own stock in three huge health care companies last year — the same year she negotiated and signed billion-dollar contracts with their subsidiaries.

Outside ethics experts have said it’s a clear conflict of interest for Corcoran to own stock in businesses while deciding whether they get contracts to manage care for Ohio’s poor and disabled. But from early 2019 when Gov. Mike DeWine appointed her Medicaid director through the end of last year, her ethics filings have shown that she has owned at least $1,000 worth stock in CVS Health and UnitedHealth Group.

Both companies own pharmacy middlemen that have handled a huge volume of prescription-drug transactions for the Medicaid department, sometimes with controversial results. In 2017, for example, they charged taxpayers $224 million more for drugs than they paid the pharmacies that dispensed them. 

Because of those and other problems with the pharmacy-benefit operations, the Medicaid department is abandoning the model under which they have operated. However, insurers owned by the same corporations got huge contracts as care managers as part of the same restructuring.

CVS’s Aetna received a billion-dollar contract to run OhioRISE, a program for children with complex behavioral health needs. And UnitedHealth is one of seven companies that will share $22 billion worth of Medicaid managed-care business over the next five years — the biggest public procurement in state history.

Corcoran’s filings show that last year she also owned at least $1,000 worth of stock in Humana, another insurer picked for a share of the managed-care business.

State ethics rules only require that officials such as Corcoran list all the stocks they own at least $1,000 worth of in a given year. So it’s impossible to know how heavily invested she is in those companies. Corcoran last year declined to file an affidavit disclosing her exact holdings in companies whose subsidiaries she was awarding contracts and she’s refused to make those disclosures voluntarily.

“Director Corcoran has complied with all laws at all times,” Medicaid spokeswoman Lisa Lawless said Monday when again asked how much stock Corcoran owned in the companies.

Corcoran disclosed her stock in CVS, UnitedHealth and Humana along with ownership in 277 other companies. They include several drugmakers and wholesalers. But while large amounts of Medicaid money might end up in their coffers, the Medicaid managed-care program in the past didn’t contract directly with them to purchase their products.

By contrast to Corcoran’s holdings, DeWine disclosed that he owned at least $1,000 worth of 70 stocks. They include drugmakers such as Merck and Pfizer, but not CVS, UnitedHealth or Humana.

Attorney General Dave Yost didn’t report ownership of more than $1,000 worth of stock in any company.

The Capital Journal has been reporting on Corcoran’s stock holdings in her department’s contractors since October, during a legal fight over the Medicaid procurement process. She’s refused to discuss them and her lawyers have complained in court documents about the coverage.

“The entire topic is a smear campaign intended to harass and embarrass Director Corcoran,” one filing said.

In another, Corcoran denied having any conflict of interest.

“I did not steer any of the Medicaid managed-care contracts towards or away from any applicant,” she said in a sworn affidavit, adding, “I did not knowingly have any conflict of interest related to the Medicaid managed-care contracts.”

Also in an affidavit, Corcoran swore that she wasn’t aware what stocks she owned “on any particular day or during any particular month.”

However, similar to her earlier disclosures, the one she filed at 9:22 a.m. Sunday swore that it had “been prepared or carefully reviewed by me, and constitute(s) my complete, truthful, and correct disclosure of all required information…”



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Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.