Health insurance behemoth Centene Corp., its subsidiaries, its top executives, and their spouses contributed more than $26.9 million to state politicians in 33 states, to their political parties, and to nonprofit fundraising groups from Jan. 1, 2015, through Oct. 4, 2022, according to a KHN analysis of IRS tax filings and data from the nonpartisan, nonprofit group OpenSecrets. Centene, the largest Medicaid managed-care company in the U.S., focused its giving on states where it is wooing Medicaid contracts and settling accusations that it overbilled taxpayers.
More than 20 states, including California, are investigating or have investigated Centene’s Medicaid pharmacy billing. The company has agreed to pay settlements to 14 of those states, with the total reaching about $613 million. The latest was in Oregon, which announced a $17 million settlement from Centene on Dec. 6. Centene told KHN in October that it was working to settle with Georgia and other states that it didn’t identify. It has denied wrongdoing in all the investigations.
Centene’s political giving has been purposeful: The company earns billions of dollars from governments and then uses its profits to back the campaigns of the officials who oversee those government contracts. The company has developed this sophisticated, multipronged strategy as it pursues even more state government-funded contracts and defends against sweeping accusations that it overbilled many of those very governments.
Among the tactics the company has used: Executives and their family members made political contributions in their own names. For instance, from 2015 through 2021, Centene’s then-CEO Michael Neidorff and his wife, Noémi, wrote at least $380,000 in personal checks to state candidates, with more than 60% going to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who governs a state where the insurer generated 11% of its revenue in 2019.
Centene didn’t respond to specific questions about its political giving. But company spokesperson Suzy DePrizio said in a statement that the company follows all local, state, and federal laws and records all contributions from its political action committee. She said Centene’s contributions “are intended to serve as support to those who advocate for sound public policy healthcare decisions, which is evident by our nearly equal support of candidates from both parties.”
KHN senior correspondent Samantha Young recently teamed up with senior editor Andy Miller and contributor Rebecca Grapevine to dig into Centene’s political giving. Read more about their findings here, which were published before Oregon announced its settlement with Centene.