GOP’s Medicaid Mess Turns Into A Scandal

Guest Post from House Minority Leader Mark Smith

The night before Thanksgiving, the GOP’s Medicaid mess turned into a scandal.

A judge threw out the WellCare contract for Medicaid privatization because Branstad and his GOP friends broke the rules. The judge also said WellCare failed to disclose a $137.5 million fraud settlement and that four of its executives were convicted for making false statements or fraud.

With $4 billion in taxpayer money at stake, the insider dealings are fit for a DC television drama.

The judge found that former GOP lawmaker turned WellCare lobbyist Chris Rants and Branstad’s Chief of Staff Michael Bousselot broke the rules with improper communication. It happened during a “black out” period when state officials and private companies were not to be discussing Medicaid privatization.

The judge also said it was “troublesome” that another former GOP lawmaker – Renee Schulte — worked for Branstad inside the Dept. of Human Services and then went to work for WellCare. She switched jobs the same week her boss at DHS opened the door to privatizing Medicaid.

Schulte even admitted she used personal email to break the rules and contact her friend, Iowa Medicaid Director Mikki Stier, during the same black out period.  Stier was one of the key state officials who decided which companies received state contracts.

Another reason the judge threw out the Medicaid contract was because WellCare initially failed to disclose a $137.5 million settlement for Medicaid fraud that reached nine different states. They also forgot to mention four executives were convicted of making false statements or health care fraud.

It turns out Branstad officials even knew about the WellCare fraud, but didn’t give all the information to the committee helping select the companies that would receive contracts.  That put WellCare in a better position to win one of the contracts.

Essentially, Branstad and his GOP friends cheated the system to make sure WellCare landed one of the Medicaid contracts worth around $1 billion.

Even though a non-partisan judge reversed the WellCare contract, it’s likely Branstad will just ignore the ruling and award the contract to his GOP friends at WellCare.

That’s because he rigged the system from the beginning and made sure his own appointee, Dept. of Administrative Services Director Janet Phipps, can ignore the judge’s decision and do whatever Branstad wants.

To be fair, Director Phipps faces a no win situation here.  If Phipps follows the judge’s order and throws out the WellCare contract, she’ll anger her boss and his Chief of Staff already implicated in the scandal.  If Phipps ignores the judge’s order, she’ll be responsible for letting Branstad and his friends cheat the system in order to win one of the largest contracts in state history.

So far, Republican lawmakers at the State Capitol refuse to hold the Governor accountable or ask any tough questions about Medicaid privatization.  Republicans on one committee say another committee should deal with it. Republicans on the other committee say they can’t do anything about it.  It’s a game typically seen in Washington, DC, not our State Capitol.

Unfortunately, this scandal is just the latest chapter in the GOP’s Medicaid mess that will put health care for over 565,000 seniors, expecting moms, and Iowans with chronic diseases or disabilities at risk starting January 1.

Iowa hospitals are suing the Governor to stop his privatization plan. Health care providers don’t know what services they will be able to provide or how much they will receive for services.

Iowans are being told a private company will manage their health care without knowing if they can get the same care they get now or even see their own doctor. Branstad can’t even prove his privatization scheme will save the state any money at all.

While the GOP’s Medicaid mess is playing out like a DC drama, it has real world consequences for 565,000 Iowans.


by House Minority Leader Mark Smith
Posted 12/2/15

18 Comments on "GOP’s Medicaid Mess Turns Into A Scandal"

  • Janet Phipps needs to cowgirl up and do the right thing, even if it means she loses… she’s got a Mafioso for a boss and we’ve got one for a governor, and she’s the one with the power to put the smack down, until we the people can kick his ass out.

  • What Branstad has done with Medicaid is awful! My daughter is on Medicaid and now we got a packet about his “new Medicaid” and we have until December 17th to accept the one that was chosen for us or call in and give our choice. He has us over a barrel. I don’t want his choices because I don’t trust him!! But it takes effect on January 1, 2016 so we’re out of time. I don’t agree with any of it but have to make a choice now! The federal government needs to do something before December 17th!!

  • I am the mother of an individual with disabilities and I don’t understand how you can sign up for a company if you have no idea what they are going to cover or what providers are contracting with them. It is a total mess!

  • You should really contact Karla Perry Vansice for more details on this topic. Senator Charles Alan (along with local officials Stephen Smith and Doug Bishop of Baxter) have been working together to fight this privitization. She personally met with Chuck Palmer about this within the last month. Her cell number is 515-205-1664.

  • When are the people of Iowa going to wake up and realize that our Governor is an immoral criminal? His history of improper and illegal behavior does not start with this scandal, it goes way back to the days when his son took human life while driving under the influence of alcohol, but was never charged with a crime, and then he illegally used workforce development money and had to use taxpayer dollars for his legal defense because he couldn’t use state lawyers to get him out of trouble. Then there was his questionable involvement in having a state trooper fired for pulling over his driver/car when they were breaking the law. What’s next?

    • Lori I so agree wirh everything you have said.Branstad needs to be removed from his office ,he is not a person that can be trusted.GET HIM OUT

  • Please send a letter to those folks in DC that oversee this stuff. The following is a list of email addresses, along with a simple sample letter that may be copied/pasted into your own email. Let’s stop this insanity now!

    Email, in order of importance if your time is limited Acting Admin CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) Director of CMS Region 7 Director HHS (Housing and Human Services) Director State Demonstrations Group for CMS U.S. Secretary of HHS, Cabinet Appointment Acting Principal Deputy Administrator HHS Acting Deputy Secretary HHS
    Sample letter: say it in your own words, but here are some ideas

    Subject: Iowa Medicaid Privatization


    Please STOP the transfer of Iowa Medicaid Management to Managed Care Organizations.

    It is an additional, almost unbearable challenge for an already vulnerable population of Iowa citizens and their caretakers. Providers are equally confounded by the complexities of having to now deal with 4 different, historically poorly managed MCO’s.

    Please listen to the people of Iowa, especially those directly affected by these changes: consumers, their families, providers, agencies.

    We have not been given a voice in this by our governor. We are not sure our voices are being heard at the Federal level.

    Please forward this to appropriate staff.

    Thank you!


  • someone needs to look into what else branstad has his fingers in as i said on ktiv site it is all about lining his and his friends pockets just how long are we going to allow him to rape the system ? what next he will run or retire ( with benifits of course ) it is tax payers money we as the payees need to make him stand up and account do an audit it is our taxes that pay for him and his cronies why do we as tax payers allow him to stay in office for the good of ALL on medicaid and medicare someone needs to hold him accountable . for him and his cronies to ignore a judges order is a slap to all of iowans , the tax payers and the ones on medicaid and medicare he doesnt see us as people all he sees is dollar signs …….

  • He isn’t even caring about the 300+ people who work for Iowa Medicare here in Des Moines who will LOSE their job if this goes through!!!

  • Thank you Mark for giving more publicity to this issue. I think it is almost criminal and at the least completely irresponsible what this administration is doing to our most vulnerable citizens. It’s a continuation of the ongoing policies that harm the most fragile in our state. It’s a nightmare that we can’t seem to wake up from. Somehow this freight train has to be stopped before the harm can not be undone.

  • If I remember correctly, quasi-mainstream Republicans asked/begged Bransted to run for Governor again because there were too many basket cases, aka tea-partiers, who wanted that office. If any one of these Republicans would have became the Governor, it would have been a disaster. Now, Mr Bransted, because he’s such a moderate, is in the process of screwing Iowans, because he isn’t as bad as Steve King or that Family Leader guy.

    Way to go Mr Bransted —— my cup runneth over!

  • The people in charge of keeping health care totally private and corrupt are the Republicans at all levels of government.

    BUT, they have gotten plenty of help from the Dems who took Romneycare and turned it into Obamacare.

    If you want real universal health care, you need to vote for Bernie Sanders and anyone else who wants to get rid of for-profit medicine.

    • This has nothing at all to do with the Affordable Care Act but it does have everything to do with corrupt Republicans who claim they’re trying to save money and start with those with the least while continuing to give handouts to those with the most

  • I attended a meeting with DHS concerning this in Waukee on the 24th of November. Actually I tried to attend as did many others who had questions, it seems the informational meeting had been canceled but no one was informed. When asked if there was going to be another meeting in the Des Moines area we were told no because there had already had been one in this area. No one at the event had heard about or known about another meeting in Des Moines. Some people had driven 90 or more miles to attend. This seems to be just another part of the mess that is privatization of Medicaid in Iowa.

  • Medicaid was working very well for so many of us. We were finally getting quality, accessible medical care in our own area. If this new program goes through and goes wrong, many of us are at risk of losing our lives…plain and simple! The most vulnerable in our state have enough to deal with, just getting through every day, without this new threat to navigate through. How can we pick a plan without any details? None of us want to be sick and reliant on assistance, this is not our choice.

  • I am so sick of what Branstad has done to the stte of iowa. fires 10 nursing home inspectors, makes the standard of heath care 46th in the nation. gives big corporations a pass on fines for substandard care as he feels they are too punitive, closes Abby center, options, Clarinda, mountplesant, rigs the regents and his people vote for a businessman not qualified to be head of the university. now medicaid, next social security, and all these creepy people that voted for this piece of crap, will be happy until it is their turn to deal with the gutting of our state. when you privatize healthcare the insurance companies are still reimbursed with federal funds only taking a bigger share for themselves.

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