The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 8, 2010

No-bid contracts

The Register-Herald

— The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources just awarded more than half a billion dollars’ worth of contracts, without competitive bidding, to three companies to provide health care insurance for some 160,000 Medicaid recipients in the state.

How can that happen?

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are asking the same question, and they need some answers.

The DHHR maintains that they aren’t required by law to put the contracts out to bid. If that’s the case, and we’re sure we’ll be hearing more about it in the days ahead, then here is another piece of legislation that needs drafted to make sure the taxpayers are getting not only the best product or service, but the most cost-effective for their dollar, via the bidding process.

Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley, Carelink and Uni-Care are the three companies that have received the contracts, and they are the current providers contracted by the DHHR for these services.

This isn’t meant to be a criticism of any of the three, but when Medicaid Commissioner Nancy Atkins said that bidding wouldn’t have gotten the state a better deal, we have a hard time just accepting her opinion when you’re talking about $560 million. That’s big bucks. Could the state have saved $500,000, a million or more by putting the work out for bids?

It makes us say Hmmm.

It should also be pointed out that Atkins used to work for a subsidiary of Uni-Care. We’re not suggesting any impropriety, but it is further justification for putting the work out for bid.

Kanawha County Delegate Nancy Guthrie told the Charleston Gazette last week that she plans to speak with legislative leaders about asking Attorney General Darrell McGraw for a legal opinion on the issue.

During Thursday’s Candidate Forum in Beckley, when questioned about the subject Delegate Bill Wooton made it clear that bidding is the way to go. Other members of the House and Senate need to get on this bandwagon.

Expending taxpayer dollars is the responsibility of our lawmakers, and when money is being spent by state agencies without shopping around, that’s a problem.