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The Gray administration pushed back today against any whiff of a notion that Jeff Thompson‘s Medicaid managed-care organization, D.C. Chartered Health Plan Inc., improperly benefited from Thompson’s financial contributions to the mayor’s 2010 political campaign.
Thompson, you all know, had his offices and houses raided by federal agents last week. The feds also told the city to preserve its records related to its $322 million-a-year contract with Chartered. Last year, the Gray administration pushed through the D.C. Council, on a 7-6 vote, a last-minute increase in Medicaid payments to Chartered and another managed care organization. The administration also settled a complaint Chartered had filed with the Contract Appeals Board saying it had been underpaid for providing dental care.
Today, the Gray administration made top officials available to reporters for a background briefing on the rationale behind both the increase in Medicaid payments and the settlement. A thick packet complete with eight “exhibits” explaining how the settlement talks went down was also distributed.
The short-version explanation for both moves: The previous administration was cooking with bad numbers, and the Gray administration had to fix their mess.
Not that this is news; the Gray administration’s been giving the same explanations for boosting Medicaid payments and for settling since last year. When backed up with emails and graphs from the District’s contracted actuary, Mercer, they are rationales that, frankly, are pretty convincing.
But that doesn’t mean this story is going away. Much to dismay of Gray officials, the Washington Post editorial board ran a piece today declaring that the last-minute vote to increase the Medicaid bucks underscores “the need to do something about the unseemly nexus of contracts and campaign contributions in D.C. politics.”
And the fact that At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, who is one of the largest beneficiaries of Thompson’s network of donors, was among the seven to vote for the increased payments to Chartered is sure to be a factor in his latest campaign. Tweeteth challenger Peter Shapiro after the Post editorial ran: “Worth noting: VO cast deciding vote for this $32M ’emergency’ payment to bagman Jeff Thompson.” Nevermind that Ward 6 Councilmartyr Saint Tommy Wells, who hasn’t taken any Thompson-linked money, voted for the increase as well. This is politics.
Screen grab via C-SPAN