Ohio judge aids Aetna, stops state Medicaid contract

In a dispute involving Hartford health giant Aetna Inc. over the scoring of contract applications, a central Ohio judge blocked the state from moving forward with tentative Medicaid contracts it awarded to five health plans, The Associated Press reports.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Sheward ordered the contract process halted for now, at the request of Aetna's Better Health of Ohio.

Aetna is suing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services because state officials had selected the company for a contract in April and then revoked the decision earlier this month. Aetna claims the state retroactively changed the definition of certain requirements in its request for contract applications, and the company wants its contract reinstated.

The contract awards are preliminary. The health plans, or managed care organizations, must first pass a state assessment, in which they must prove that they will be ready and able to provide care when Medicaid enrollment under the plans begins in January.

The state had expected to complete its readiness review by the end of August and fully award the contracts. But it's unclear how the judge's ruling on Tuesday will affect that timeline.

A spokesman for Job and Family Services says the agency won't comment on pending litigation.

Sheward has set another hearing for July 23 to decide whether the order should be extended.