Lawyers made millions from Centene settlements: Report

Private lawyers made at least $108 million in fees from payments Centene made to states to settle overcharging allegations, The New York Times reported March 21. 

Since 2021, Centene has paid millions to 19 states to settle allegations it overbilled state Medicaid programs for pharmacy services.

The case against Centene emerged from an investigation into PBMs launched in 2018 by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who at the time was the state's attorney general, according to the Times. 

The case against Centene was led by Mississippi law firm Liston & Deas. The lawyers were first hired by Ohio and negotiated a basic settlement framework with Centene. They then pitched this framework to other states. 

In 2021, Centene settled with Ohio for $88 million and with Mississippi for $55 million. Centene will eventually settle with 22 states for a total of $1.25 billion, according to Liston & Deas. The lawyers involved made at least $108 million in fees from states, according to the Times' reporting. 

According to The New York Times, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who has close ties to Liston & Deas, was involved in the initial investigation into PBM billing practices while also serving as a federal lobbyist for Centene. 

Once Centene became the main target of this investigation, Mr. Barbour was no longer involved in the case, representatives told the New York Times. He continued to represent Centene as a lobbyist, though he was "more of an observer" for the company when he was involved in the case, he told the Times. 

No one has fully explained Mr. Barbour's role in the case, the New York Times reported. Data used to calculate what Centene allegedly overcharged states is hidden under laws designed to protect attorneys' work, according to the Times, making it difficult to know if Mr. Barbour influenced the outcome of the case. 

All of the settlements Centene has reached with states have been no-fault agreements. 

"We respect the deep and critically important relationships we have with our state partners," a Centene spokesperson told Becker's in 2022. "This no-fault agreement reflects the significance we place on addressing their concerns and our ongoing commitment to making the delivery of healthcare local, simple and transparent. Importantly, this allows us to continue our relentless focus on delivering high-quality outcomes to our members."

Becker's has reached out to Centene for comment on this latest report and will update this article if more information becomes available. 

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