Attorney General Greg Stumbo has decided to investigate whether a former insurance executive improperly influenced the creation of a state health insurance plan that has angered teachers and state workers, his spokeswoman said.
The health plan will be the focus of a special legislative session that is scheduled to begin Tuesday and that Gov. Ernie Fletcher is expected to formally announce today.
Fletcher chastised Democrats yesterday, maintaining that partisan politics are driving the Democratic attorney general and a House committee to investigate Mark Birdwhistell’s role in the insurance negotiations. Birdwhistell, undersecretary for Health and Family Services, was chief executive officer of CHA Health prior to joining the administration. CHA won a contract from the state to exclusively administer benefits in two regions under Fletcher’s plan.
Birdwhistell could not be reached for comment. Fletcher said in a statement that the investigations are divisive.
“Unfortunately, this type of partisan tactic serves only to divide and further politicize the ongoing efforts of this administration to find solutions to the critical issue of health insurance for state employees and teachers across the commonwealth — a problem that previous administrations have ignored,” Fletcher said.
In a letter asking Stumbo to investigate, Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, cited conflicting statements from the administration about Birdwhistell’s role, including Fletcher’s initial statement about Birdwhistell’s involvement.
Fletcher’s spokesman later contended the governor was “misinformed,” and Birdwhistell said he “was insulated from that process.”
Stumbo, who was not available for comment, said Thursday he would order the public corruption branch of the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation to look into Birdwhistell’s role in the bidding process.
“The bidding process for state health insurance affects thousands of state employees and teachers,” said Stumbo’s spokeswoman, Vicki Glass. “We want to ensure that the process was done in a fair and equitable manner.”
Glass denied Fletcher’s charge of political motives, and reiterated Stumbo’s denial of plans to run for governor.
“The attorney general is fulfilling his duties, part of which is to investigate matters that affect the public,” Glass said.
Jones, who did not return phone calls seeking comment, also asked Stumbo to find out whether Birdwhistell still has a financial interest in CHA Health.
“It is paramount that we ensure that his procurement process, which impacts thousands of our public servants, their families and retirees, was conducted appropriately,” Jones wrote in his letter to Stumbo.
Earlier this week, Rep. Charles Geveden, a Wickliffe Democrat who chairs the House State Government Committee, said he would open a similar investigation.