AG Achieves Results Using Private Law Firms in Medicaid Case



“Meet the new boss, like the old boss. – Pete Townshend in The Who “Won’t be fooled again”

Mississippi’s settlement of a lawsuit with state-owned Medicaid Centene was based on the same pattern as other cases: Private attorneys were hired by the attorney general to prosecute wrongdoing allegations against the mega -businesses.

Attorney General Lynn Fitch released a press release last month touting the $ 55 million settlement of the lawsuit that accused Centene of overcharging the state for pharmaceutical benefits he had been hired to provide to the Medicaid program.

The big difference is that Fitch’s predecessor – Democrat Jim Hood – often called press conferences to announce such regulations where reporters regularly asked the state’s only elected Democrat about the use of a private lawyer. for such trials.

Hood has often been savage for the use of an outside lawyer by lawmakers, former Gov. Haley Barbour and others. Legislation has been introduced to try to prevent the hiring of private lawyers.

But when Fitch and State Auditor Shad White announced that they had come to an agreement with Centene, the same people who complained about Hood and his predecessor ‘use of private attorneys – Democrat Mike Moore – did not utter any negative words.

There was no criticism even though the Centene case had similar elements to Moore’s lawsuit against tobacco companies of the 1990s – still the best known and perhaps most successful use of a lawyer. external. In this lawsuit, Mississippi received what is called a “lead dog” pledge. If another state later received a better settlement, Mississippi, as the lead dog, would get the same settlement.

In the Centene case, Ohio filed and settled the first lawsuit and received “lead dog” status.

And as with the tobacco lawsuits and dozens of lawsuits since then, private attorneys were only paid if they won – a percentage of the settlement, or roughly $ 2.5 million in the case. Centene.

In recent days, Fitch has announced that it has filed yet another lawsuit against the insulin makers. The lawsuit alleges companies are artificially inflating the price of the life-saving drug.

“As a mother of a diabetic, I know the emotional, physical and financial consequences that the unreasonable price of insulin has on families,” Fitch said in a statement. “I filed this complaint on behalf of all Mississippians who depend on this drug for their survival. These companies exploit vulnerable people. I fight because you should never have to decide between paying the ever-increasing price of insulin or compromising your care.

The insulin lawsuit is being continued for Fitch by the attorneys who worked on the Ridgeland-based Centene: Liston & Deas case. And if they win, they will receive a percentage of the settlement – 5% of any settlement over $ 25 million – a higher percentage for small settlements. Lawyers pay all the costs of the lawsuit, and they get nothing if they lose.

Hood used to argue that outside counsel was needed to prosecute cases where the state did not have the expertise, manpower, or finances to be successful against large corporations with deep pockets. In the Centene case, for example, work on the concept that led to the trial began years ago.

The fact that Fitch is going pretty much the same path as Hood and Moore shouldn’t come as a surprise.

During the campaign, a spokesperson for Fitch said: “The default advice should be internal advice, of course, because that is usually the best, most efficient and cost effective way. But, like any law firm, if there is a case that requires specialist knowledge and people’s interests are best served with outside expertise working alongside AG’s lawyers, Lynn Fitch won’t rule out l ‘option.

Also during the campaign, Jennifer Riley Collins, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, complained that many lawyers and others who had financially supported Hood were contributing to Fitch’s campaign. The message some saw there was that in Republican-controlled Mississippi, Riley Collins didn’t have much of a chance of winning, so they contributed to the Republican who would play essentially by the same rules as previous Democratic attorneys general.

During Hood’s tenure, $ 2.8 billion was awarded to the state in prosecutions with the assistance of an outside lawyer. Private lawyers received $ 121.1 million in fees and expenses, or 4.3% of the total allocated to the state, according to information compiled by Hood’s office before his tenure ended. These figures do not include annual payments made to the state in connection with the tobacco lawsuit.

In the early 1990s, Charlie Capps cigar rep D-Cleveland, the powerful president of Appropriations, warned Moore that he had better not spend public funds on the dubious and unsuccessful lawsuit against the makers of cigarettes.

Moore did not. But the state is still spending the money – about $ 100 million a year – that Moore raised in settling the dispute.

This analysis was carried out by Mississippi today, a non-profit news organization that covers state government, public policy, politics and culture. Bobby Harrison is the senior reporter for Capitol Hill Mississippi Today.

This story was originally published July 5, 2021 12:00 a.m.

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