As of Oct. 1, three of the four Managed Care Organizations that administer the state’s health insurance program for low-income families were still not in compliance with the state’s Freedom of Information laws when they renewed their contracts with the state.
House Majority Leader Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, sounded the alarm bells this week when he sent a letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell asking her administration to stop renewing the month-to-month contract with Community Health Network, Anthem, and Health Net of Connecticut, if they continue to refuse to comply with the law.
Following a lawsuit, WellCare is the only organization that has agreed to obey the state’s FOIA laws. “Since, WellCare agreed to this, it is still in business in Connecticut, it has not been inundated with advocates’ FOI requests, its competitors have not obtained an unfair view into its proprietary business practices, etc.,” Donovan wrote in his letter to Rell.
Mrs. Rell’s spokesman Rich Harris said Wednesday that compliance with FOIA law is an issue in negotiations with the managed care organizations and the governor is “intent on seeing it in the contract.”
“It’s something we want to see happen at the end of the day,” Harris said.
While Democratic leadership has been vocal about the forcing contractors that perform a government function to comply with FOIA laws, it failed to take Superior Court Judge George Levine’s advice and legislate compliance.
In November 2006 Judge Levine issued a decision affirming the Freedom of Information Commission’s ruling which said managed care organizations are subject to FOIA law because they perform a government function by administering $700 million in Medicaid funds to more than 300,000 children and families.
The public is interested in the details of the insurance policy provided by the state and the insurance companies have an interest in keeping their proprietary business information secret, Levine said summing up both sides of the argument in the lawsuit. “This really cries out for legislative determination,” Levine opined in January when he decided not to enforce his initial November 2006 ruling.
In January, Levine concluded that if the legislature passes an amendment to the contracts, then “we won’t have these fights anymore.” He speculated that by the time the court adjudicated this issue, the health care companies and the state will have renegotiated the disputed contracts making judicial enforcement mute.
In January the legislature’s Human Services Committee heard from both the health care advocates calling for more disclosure and Managed Care Organizations fearful their trade secrets would be lost if they were subject to FOIA, but the legislature which was in session from January to June this year failed to pass legislation to enforce the issue. The two pieces of legislation they did introduce died on the House calendar and now they want to blame Mrs. Rell.
On the other hand, Mrs. Rell’s budget director Robert Genuario told the Human Services Committee on March 15, 2007 that the governor “has made it clear to the Department of Social Services that any new contracts with MCOs or any renewed contracts will include provisions that require those MCOs to comply with [the] Freedom of Information Act, and she is committed to that process.”
The Department of Social Services Commissioner Michael Starkowski then told Democratic leaders on Sept. 13, “I am writing to advise you of my intention to fully adhere to Governor Rell’s strong and clear open government policy and directive that my Department’s future Medicaid Managed Care contracts include provisions requiring compliance with our state’s FOIA.”
Following the Sept. 13 letter the Department of Social Services renewed the contracts with the MCOs from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31.