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Archives: KHI News Service

On January 1, 2017, the KHI News Service became part of KCUR public radio’s new initiative, the Kansas News Service. The Kansas News Service will continue to cover health policy news and broaden its scope to include education and politics. All stories produced by the former KHI News Service are archived here. Stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org.

Incendiary lawsuit over KanCare company’s practices dismissed

By Dan Margolies, HEARTLAND HEALTH MONITOR | July 22, 2015

A federal whistleblower lawsuit alleging that one of the companies running KanCare ordered employees to shift KanCare patients away from high-cost health care providers has been dismissed.

A one-sentence document filed Tuesday in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., said that the plaintiff, Jacqueline Leary, and the defendants — Sunflower State Health Plan Inc., its parent company Centene Corp. and three other parties — had stipulated to the dismissal. Each party was to bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees.

Attorneys for the parties could not immediately be reached for comment.

It’s not clear if the lawsuit was settled out of court, but the dismissal ends a case that featured incendiary claims on both sides.

The lawsuit was filed last fall by former Sunflower executive Jacqueline Leary, who claimed she was fired after she objected to a Sunflower directive that she regarded as unethical and possibly illegal.

Sunflower is one of three managed care companies that administers the $3 billion Kansas Medicaid program known as KanCare. The program was launched by Gov. Sam Brownback in early 2013 and moved nearly all of the state’s Medicaid enrollees into health plans run by Sunflower and two other managed care organizations, Amerigroup and United Healthcare.

Leary, a former executive of Sunflower before her termination in January 2014, contended that Sunflower, motivated by financial losses, ordered her to steer enrollees away from providers that had contracted to be reimbursed at rates higher than 100 percent of standard Kansas Medicaid rates.

Sunflower and Centene fired back with their own accusations that Leary was fired for poor job performance and was trying to extort the companies. They alleged that she demanded a $3 million payment in return for not reporting them to the Kansas attorney general’s Medicaid fraud unit — a charge that Leary’s attorney later called “the most ludicrous thing ever.”

In March, U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum threw out Sunflower’s and Centene’s abuse-of-process claim. He ruled that even if Leary’s lawsuit was filed to extort or harass the defendants, the mere filing of a lawsuit, even for an improper purpose, was not a proper basis for an abuse-of-process action.

Lungstrum, however, let the companies’ additional defamation claim against Leary proceed.