Monday, August 8, 2011

HMO spends $627 million in public funds defending against Federal criminal fraud charges

A company whose income derives entirely from taxpayer funds has spent $627.4 million of our money defending itself against federal criminal fraud charges. The figures are reported in Wellcare's SEC filings between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2011.

Yet, while the S&P 500 is down 10.34% year to date, Wellcare's stock remains up 16.74% even after today's spectacular plummit.

Wellcare is not the only for-profit managed care company continuing to show significant year to date growth. Unitedhealth Group is up 16.44%, Humana up 19.93%, while Aetna, Coventry, Wellpoint, and Centene are all higher year to date.

Ironically, growth in all these companies has been fueled by federal and state tax-payer money. Total Medicare and Medicaid payouts to for-profit HMOs are running almost $11 billion per month. Life and death decisions for more than 33 million Americans, most of them medically vulnerable, have been sold off to these publicly funded HMOs, whose decision making is based more on shareholder profit than medical need.

The Affordable Care Act has tried to put in place minimum spending requirements of 80 to 85% for commercial and Medicare HMOs. Few states require any minimum spending on Medicaid contracts. Limited regulation and an absence of any effective enforcement of how taxpayer money is spent has led to fraudulent reporting of actual medical costs by up to 299%.

Somewhere between $2 billion and $6 billion a month is saved from government-paid premiums for Medicaid and Medicare by the HMOs simply refusing to authorize needed services.

Which brings us back to Wellcare's $627 million in taxpayer money spent defending itself against charges it has been stealing from us taxpayers.

Am I the only person who has a problem with this?

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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.