When Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne gave Louisiana's Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget a Boy Scout salute, but with his index and ring fingers curled down, it launched a series of events still unresolved that has thrown health care of many state employees and retirees into turmoil starting earlier this week, as well as potentially wasting state tax dollars.
Last fall, the JLCB considered awarding a pharmacy benefits manager contract to Caremark PCSHealth, continuing a tortuous journey now extending almost three years. In spring, 2020 the state solicited bids for this service provision, the largest by dollars in the state, for its Office of Group Benefits that oversees employment benefits for most state employees and retirees and their families, as well as many public school teachers and retirees and families or nearly 200,000 affected plan members. Five PBMs contested it, with Caremark, whose parent also owns the CVS Pharmacy chain and mail order businesses, winning out.
Legal challenges ensued, and the matter was put on hold. In the meantime, the state issued some short-term contracts that spent just under $500 million a shot although the maximum allowed was just over $600 million. Litigation wasn’t initially resolved until last summer, two years after, that confirmed Caremark had won the contract within the confines of the law.