The state is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit claiming the Department of Technology, Management and Budget showed “blatant favoritism” in awarding a $657 million contract for the Healthy Kids Dental Program.

The state says MCNA Insurance Company’s suit filed in Ingham County should be dismissed “because disappointed bidders lack standing to challenge a public bid process,” according to court documents.

The state further alleges the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over MCNA’s appeal because DTMB’s award recommendation was not a final decision by a judicial agency.

“The state’s attempt to dismiss the case, on a technicality, sends a clear message: It believes DTMB’s procurement decisions are immune from judicial review and it can act with impunity no matter how flawed the process or how blatant a violation of the law has occurred,” said MCNA attorney Scott Eldridge, of Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone.

“Transparency and fiscal responsibility require judicial review of this flawed decision,” he added. “These tactics contradict Michigan’s stated commitment to fiscal responsibility and competitive bidding.”

MCNA Insurance Company asked an Ingham County judge to reverse the DTMB’s decision to award the Healthy Kids contract to Blue Cross Blue Shield. It filed a related suit in the Court of Claims in January regarding DTMB’s response to its Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the bid process.

According to the Ingham County court filing, DTMB admitted the process “involved multiple improprieties, secret negotiations and special exceptions granted in favor” of BCBS.

Lyon’s Notes Show Knowledge Of Legionella In July 2015
(FLINT)—Notes about Flint’s lead and Legionnaires’ disease outbreak were on the phone of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon in July 2015—six months before the governor’s public announcement.
That testimony from Jeff Seipenko, a special agent for the state’s Attorney General’s Office, came during day 14 of Lyon’s preliminary exam in Flint and it arguably provides confirmation that the DHHS director was aware of suspicions that the city’s drinking water source was tainted with legionella bacteria.

Public health officials have said at least a dozen people died of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015, and the prosecution has charged Lyon with involuntary manslaughter connected to the December 2015 death of Robert C. Skidmore, 85, of Mount Morris. The prosecution expects to seek a second charge in connection with the death of John Snyder, 83, in June 2015.

Skidmore’s son, Robert J. Skidmore, also testified, saying his father liked to laugh, sing, hunt and spend time at his cabin. But, after his legionella diagnosis in June 2015, his father was lethargic, only sitting.

“He never seemed like he got better,” said the son, who grieved the loss of his mother in June 2015 and his father the following December.

The younger Skidmore said neither he nor his father had warning of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint. He said he learned about it when it was made public in January 2016.

The outbreak is generally believed to be tied to the city’s switch from the Lake Huron water to Flint River in April 2014.

Lyon also is charged with misconduct in office. The preliminary exam was continued to Feb. 7 before Judge David Goggins.

The July 22, 2015, note, which was displayed in court, noted “lead is probably a result of the pipes from street to house” and “increased anemia and other health issues (update on legionnaires.” It also references “DM,” “Wyant” and “Dan,” whom Seipenko believed was former Chief of Staff for the governor, Dennis Muchmore and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant.

“Talk to Dan about potential increase lead testing . . . we care,” one part of the note reads. “Higher levels of chlorine. Gam won’t use. Pipes replaced for GM,” a reference to General Motors.

Seipenko said the date on the note also was of importance because it was the same day of a meeting between Muchmore, another aide to the governor, pastors and Flint residents about the city’s water problems.

The date also conflicts with Lyon’s previous comments about when he learned of legionella in Flint. He told media he learned of the outbreak in January 2015 and email shown in court labeled “FW: Legionella” is dated January 2015. However, according to video of his testimony before a joint committee meeting of the Michigan House and Senate in April 2016, he learned about it in July 2015.

Also testifying Friday was Jim Henry, the Genesee County Health Department’s environmental health director, who said his office was “significantly” understaffed in 2014 and 2015. He said he learned of legionella in Flint in October 2014 and started working with DHHS, whom he said was not present in Flint when needed.

“Why didn’t you publish something in the paper to tell people in Flint about the outbreak?” Special Prosecutor Todd Flood asked.

“I wish we had; I do,” Henry replied. “At the time, I can tell you, our office was overwhelmed…there was a lot of things going on that inundated our office; this (legionella) was, at the time, something else and we should have. I wish we would have.”

State To Provide Hepatitis C Medication Under Medicaid
The state of Michigan is expected to begin providing Hepatitis C direct-acting antiviral medications to more Medicaid patients, according to a federal lawsuit settlement.

Lansing attorney Aaron Burrell, who represents the plaintiffs in a class-action complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, confirmed that the settlement calls for the state to begin providing the antiviral medications to Medicaid patients with a metavir fibrosis score (MFS) of F1 and above beginning Oct. 1. That expands to patients with an F0 score beginning Oct. 1, 2019.

Currently, the state allows coverage to Medicaid patients with an F2 score or above.

“It’s a good settlement for everybody,” Burrell said about the settlement, which also calls for the plaintiff, identified only as J.V., to receive $5,000 plus attorney fees under her federal civil rights violation claim.

“I think the state of Michigan did a great job and the attorney general staff working on the case did a good job,” he added. “It’s good for all parties.”

Lynn Sutfin, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), declined to comment, saying “technically the court order is not final, yet.” She also declined to say how many patients were affected.

Burrell said both sides are working on the final agreement, which will be submitted with in the next 90 days to Judge R. Steven Whalen for final approval.

Burrell said the state would send out notices to patients previously denied the Hepatitis C medication once the judge approves the final settlement. The notices will have instructions on how patients can re-apply for the medication.

The plaintiff was diagnosed as chronically infected by the Hepatitis C virus and her MFS was F0, which made her ineligible for the direct-acting antiviral medications that could cure her, according to the April complaint.

The MFS measures the severity of liver damage from mild fibrosis (F0-F1), which is no liver damage to very mild liver damage, to decompensated cirrhosis where the liver can no longer maintain its function.

The complaint alleged MDHHS’ denial of J.V.’s application to receive the medications violated her constitutional rights and failed to provide necessary medical assistance.

Couple Claims MDHHS Didn’t Destroy Newborn’s Blood As Requested
A Saginaw County couple is suing the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for not returning or destroying blood samples taken from their son at birth without their permission.

According to the Jan. 19 Court of Claims filings, Hemlock attorney Philip Ellison and his wife, Katherine Ellison, allege individuals working as agents of DHHS extracted and seized six blood samples or blood spots from their son, who was born in September, without a warrant and without their permission.

The couple does “not wish the state government or any entity” to have their son’s blood, the court filing states.

According to MDHHS’ Michigan BioTrust for Health website, five to six blood spots are collected from almost every newborn shortly after birth for newborn screening and any unused blood spots are stored indefinitely unless a parent or grown child—age 18 and older—opts-out.

Philip Ellison claims he completed the department’s Directive to Destroy Residual Newborn Screening Blood Specimen’s form in October, but the state failed to confirm it destroyed the extra blood samples.

The court filing also alleges MDHHS did not properly respond to the couple’s Freedom of Information Act request.

The Ellison couple seeks an order compelling MDHHS to return their son’s blood samples and original medical records containing test results. The couple seeks reasonable attorney fees and punitive damages, which it did not define in the court filing.

Lansing Lines is a cooperative feature presented by MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service and Healthcare Michigan.