CASPER — In an internal note to staff Friday, Wyoming Department of Health Director Mike Ceballos denied allegations that a 2016 Medicaid fraud investigation was obstructed by health and law enforcement officials. The state’s attorney general also denied the accusations.
“Recently, there have been several statements made about Medicaid fraud, the Wyoming Department of Health and its leadership team, including unfair and untrue allegations against our state Medicaid agent,” wrote Ceballos, who took the reins of the department in the spring.
Ceballos was present at a Thursday meeting of the Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. At the end of the meeting, the state’s former Medicaid watchdog, Mark Gaskill, spoke for several minutes about his investigation into fraud and how he felt that his “boss’ boss” and the attorney general tried to block that inquiry.
Gaskill had made those allegations to lawmakers and to journalists. He described to lawmakers a months-long investigation in 2015 and 2016 of Dr. Gibson Condie, a psychologist based in Powell. That investigation led to Condie being charged with 234 counts of health care fraud by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He would later plead guilty to one count.
A subsequent investigation into an organization tied to Condie, a treatment center that Gaskill had also investigated, has led to the indictment of three more men. They have pleaded not guilty.
Gaskill was fired in May 2016. The Department of Health has declined to comment on that firing, saying it was a personnel matter. But Gaskill told lawmakers Thursday that his firing was a direct result of his investigation into Condie, who — Gaskill alleged — had friends who wanted to make the inquiry go away.
Gaskill specifically referenced the state attorney general’s office. In a statement sent late Thursday, current Attorney General Bridget Hill said her office is “aware of Mr. Gaskill’s allegations and believe them to be categorically false. The Attorney General’s Office takes seriously our responsibility to investigate and prosecute Medicaid fraud.”
Hill was not the attorney general during the period Gaskill was working for the state.
While he did not name anyone during his remarks, Gaskill has said before that he blames Teri Green, the state’s Medicaid director. In his note to staff, Ceballos defended Green.
“Teri Green ... provides effective and respected leadership for the department,” he wrote. “She approaches the management of a large, complicated, and critical program with admirable professionalism and expects the same dedication from her employees.”
Ceballos added that he has relied heavily on Green during his first months on the job and wrote that he has “the utmost confidence in her ability to lead Wyoming Medicaid.”
Gaskill’s remarks appeared to serve two purposes: first, to describe the alleged obstruction of his investigations; and second, to ask lawmakers to remove his former unit, program integrity, from under the auspices of the Health Department and put them into an independent office.
The description of the fraud drew little attention from the lawmakers, though one — Sen. Anthony Bouchard — posted to Facebook that he wanted Green fired and expressed that sentiment to a reporter after the meeting.
In an interview Monday, committee chairman Sen. Charlie Scott said he believed there was some truth to Gaskill’s comments. He said that “clearly the way it was handled before was not proper.”
“You gotta take him dead serious because he was on to something and the fact — you know it’s real because he turned his information over to the federal government, and they got a conviction,” Scott said. “So there clearly is something there.”
But he didn’t indicate any interest in taking specific action related to the alleged obstruction. On Thursday and again Monday, he said those that Gaskill said blocked his work have largely moved on or retired. Asked about Green, Scott said that he thought “she was probably doing what she was told.”
Scott and other lawmakers on the committee seemed more interested in Gaskill’s second topic, that the Medicaid watchdog unit be pulled out of the Health Department.
“The question becomes, what do you do about the system long term, so that you don’t have a system where an investigation like this gets squashed by people who outta know better,” Scott said.
He said the unit could be placed under the auditor’s office, which is an elected position. The watchdog’s office is also placed under the umbrella of the inspector general elsewhere.
But Scott suggested strongly that there won’t be action taken this session, which begins early next year, to make that move. On Thursday, he asked Rep. Eric Barlow — who sits on the council that manages the Legislature — to ask leading lawmakers to delegate the work to a certain committee. Essentially, he was proposing that the subject be considered during the months between this session and the 2021 session.
Barlow did not return a call seeking comment by press time Monday.