Friday, September 18, 2009

If you had a company, would you hire back an employee who had stolen $40 million from you?

Because that's what our federal government has done, awarding a national Medicare contract to a company that has just paid $80 million in restitution and penalties to Florida for defrauding their state Medicaid plan, $10 million to the SEC for something else, and even $120,000 to the Florida Election Commission for ""questionable campaign contributions." Wellcare states on its website that the company provides managed care services exclusively for government-sponsored healthcare programs, focusing on Medicaid and Medicare. Some of the states where WellCare is providing Medicaid managed care services are Hawaii, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, New York, Louisiana, Texas, Indiana, Illinois and New Jersey. This company that has paid out over $90 million just in the past five months to various federal and state authorities also reported that second quarter 2009 net income was 236% higher than it was in second quarter 2008. That represents a jump from $11.1million in April-May-June 2008 to $37.0 million in the same three months of 2009. Another way to look at WellCare's profit is that the company spent $1.5 billion on medical benefits and receieved $1.8 billion in revenue from premiums. How much of that $300 million profit (just for 3 months) could have been directed back to Medicaid services if these services were not administered by a for-profit company? UnitedHealth Group operates public sector health care programs (i.e., Medicaid and Medicare) in 23 states, under a variety of names. UHG's revenue from premiums for the second quarter of 2009 was $19.7 billion, of which 83.6% was spent on medical services. That's a handy profit for three months of $3.23 billion. That isn't breaking out employee plans from state plans, but in this particular economy, that kind of profit isn't something to be sneezed at. Just in 2009, UnitedHealth Group has paid out over $1 billion in fines to New York, California and Missouri, plus another $62 million in the two preceding years. For profit companies such as WellCare and United Health should not be allowed to administer federally funded programs where their company profits are literally taking necessary medical services away from babies. Decisions on issues such as "medical necessity" should not be left up to a profit-driven company. I live in Hawaii, where our Medicaid program, including EPSDT, is run by WellCare and UnitedHealth Group.

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About Me

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I'm the mom of a child with disabilities. Hannah's first neurologist said she might never develop beyond the level of a 2 month old infant, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. The brain damage was just too severe. Nine years later, she walks, uses a touchscreen computer and I've just been shown she can learn to construct sentences and do simple math with the right piece of technology. Along the way, I discovered I needed to teach myself what Hannah's rights to services really were. Learning about early intervention services led to reading about IDEA and then to EPSDT. I've been waiting for the Obama administration to realize the power and potential of EPSDT for the medical rights - including the right to stay at home with their families - of children with disabilities. The health reform people talk about long term care, and the disability people talk about education and employment, but nobody is talking about EPSDT. So I am.