Monday, May 16, 2011

SB 1274 and the Governor's attitude towards insurance companies

Civil Beat this morning published an interview they did with Governor Abercrombie on Friday. Abercrombie is somewhat fixated on AARP, and threatens to "roll over" them if they try to oppose his pension tax proposal next time. His biggest beef with the association is that they are just a front for insurance companies.

I responded, and since it has to do with SB 1274, I want to put my questions out to the public.

I'm floored by the incredible irony of Abercrombie's statement about AARP, that "This is when your special interest becomes a private interest at the expense of the public interest." AARP is bad because they are an insurance company, but that attitude apparently doesn't spare him from playing nicey-nice with actual insurance companies like Unitedhealth and Wellcare.

The governor is putting business with crooks ahead of the public interest. Florida is trying to recover millions in stolen Medicaid funds destined for children's programs from both companies.

But SB 1974 will accomplish nothing other than saving these two corporations potentially millions of dollars in legal fees. With no outside challenges to their medical decisions, they save the money on the services as well as the fees. When it looked like SB 1274 was going to be made retroactive, Rafael del Castillo calculated it would save Unitedhealth about $500,000 in legal fees, just for five months of case work.

The Office for Civil Rights at DHHS just opened at least its fifth investigation in Hawaii since February 2010. All five have been over Medicaid cuts in services to children with disabilities, cuts that put these children at risk of institutionalization. Two cases were closed with decisions in favor the children last summer. All of the cases involved either Evercare/Unitedhealth or Ohana/Wellcare.

Of course, the way Hawaii's contracts with Evercare and Ohana are written, they get a bigger capitation payment every month if the child is institutionalized.

Given Hawaii's role in the recent federal Medicaid fraud settlement with Wellcare, the Governor owes the public an explanation of how his office could support legislation that helps companies that hurt children. That, too, seems to exemplify "when your special interest becomes a private interest at the expense of the public interest."

Would you hire a pedophile as a babysitter? Why do we hire companies who hurt children and their families to provide them with this kind of care?

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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.