Centene seeking corporate welfare to, um, administer welfare

in Uncategorized by

This is why many people are weary of politics: Centene Corp, a Fortune 500 company already slated to take in billions in taxpayer dollars through Florida’s Medicaid managed care program, is asking taxpayers to chip in to help cover its private payroll, too. 

Yes, you read that right. Managed care giant Centene is seeking corporate welfare to, um, administer welfare! 

According to reporting from the Jacksonville Business Journal and the South Florida Business Journal, Centene’s request, for $1.29 million in public incentives, would allow its subsidiary, Sunshine State Health Plan, to add about 265 employees to its Sunrise office. Another request of Jacksonville, for $375,000, would go toward covering 125 employees. 

In its application, St. Louis-based Centene is apparently threatening that it is considering expanding in Missouri instead, if it doesn’t receive these incentive handouts in Florida. 

This isn’t your run of the mill out-of-state corporation looking for a new headquarters and shopping for the best deal. 

This is a cunning, politically connected corporation with a major Florida presence apparently looking to see if it can push the envelope to squeeze just to get a little more out of taxpayers. 

Centene/Sunshine just won the greatest number of contracts to cover Medicaid enrollees in Florida’s soon-to-be statewide managed care program. It isn’t leaving the state. Cities (and Enterprise Florida) should call this laughable bluff. 

Bloomberg News reports Centene had $10.9 billion in revenue in 2013; a 25.3 percent jump over 2012’s results. According to its own press release, Centene, No. 303 on 2013’s Fortune 500, moved up 150 places from 2012’s ranking, experienced strong growth that year, with total revenues of $8.7 billion, up from $5.3 billion in 2011. 

That’s growth from $5.3 billion to $10.9 billion in two year’s time. 

Centene owes its Fortune 500 status to money it receives from taxpayers through government contracts. They’ve done well from Medicaid programs across the U.S., and are set to do the same through subsidies offered through “Obamacare” Affordable Care Act exchanges. And these contracts mean big business to the company. 

Centene knows how to play the game. The record shows the company will take different and contradictory positions state to state to win business. Case in point: just look at this year’s Florida prepaid dental legislation, and then look at how Centene approached the same issue (very differently) this year in Louisiana. 

In Florida, Centene’s affiliate and its allies worked at every committee stop to discredit the state’s dental prepaid program while in Louisiana, the company sang the praises of prepaid dental as it tried to become the state’s vendor. 

It seems where this company stands depends on what it stands to gain. 

But for lawmakers, it should be about what’s better for the taxpayers and the people who depend on lifeline government services. 

Federal, state and local governments should demand that vendors like Centene focus on doing right by those they provide welfare for … not seeking corporate welfare for themselves with this nakedly twisted double-dipping scheme.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.