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2021 In-House Counsel Awards: Chris Koster

Centene

Chris KosterDuring the 2016 race for Missouri governor, state Republican lawmakers’ refusal to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act became a central issue in the race between Republican Eric Greitens and Democrat Chris Koster.

While Greitens defeated Koster, that race and Koster’s experience as the state’s attorney general helped Koster in his next stop. He took a job as senior vice president, corporate services at Centene, a health care company based in Clayton that manages Medicaid services.

He has worked for Centene for more than four years, a period in which several holdout states, including Missouri, have begun to expand Medicaid.

That has meant more work for Koster, who also served as a county prosecutor and state senator.

“Twenty-two years in government gives familiarity in understanding the perspective of our governmental partners and providing insight into those elements of what we today do for the federal government and state governments and making sure that we are putting emphasis in the right places and giving the best service we can to our state partners,” said Koster.

During Koster’s time as attorney general, he was essentially the general counsel to all state agencies, including the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, he said.

In spite of that experience, Koster said “there is no doubt there has been a learning curve” in the intricacies of insurance law.

He had previously, of course, been focused on Missouri. But Centene has operations across the country.

“It’s 50 departments of insurance; 30 Medicaid agencies, each with their own regulatory system, each with their own political system and governmental leaders. The insurance and licensing laws in California, for example, are very different from the ones in Missouri,” Koster explained.

In spite of that challenge, Koster appears to have been successful at Centene. He was promoted in 2020 to Centene’s senior vice president, secretary and general counsel.

During his tenure, the company also has acquired several companies, including a $17.3 billion deal to purchase WellCare Health Plans. Koster worked with Centene’s mergers and acquisitions team to receive regulatory approval for the deal, which the companies completed in January 2020.

“Working with a lot of terrific people to bring new companies into the Centene family is work that I think all of us are proud of,” Koster said. “I am incredibly proud to work with an incredible mission-driven organization that I think is transforming health care in the country.”