Reports on Fraud, Gov't Corruption & Failures That Result in Suffering, Wrongful Deaths


Below is a series of Government Reports and articles dating back to 1999.and current failures we see today involving FRAUD, GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION, FAILURES THAT RESULT IN HUMAN SUFFERING, WRONGFUL DEATHS AND A TOTAL WASTE OF OUR TAX DOLLARS.

Government Corruption is nothing new, it's not partisin and most citizens dismiss it with, "Well that's the way things are." BUT now the dirty politics has put us all at risk of being neglected, abused, denial of healthcare, disfigurement, suffering and the loss of our own lives without ANY JUSTICE FOR THE CRIMES THAT OUR COMITTED..

Our Government set up oversight systems to watch over our healthcare, nursing home patient care and our hospital care. Our corrupt government put these oversight systems in place with the FULL INTENTION THAT THEY WOULD FAIL and then further insult us by forcing us to pay for these failures with our hard earned tax dollars.

How can I make such an outrageous statement without fear of punishment? BECAUSE IT IS THE TRUTH. Ask yourselves, do these oversight systems have authority to declare a crime scene, to arrest the criminals or even to file A CRIMINAL CHARGE against abusers, killers and the TOTAL CRIMINAL ELEMENT THAT FURNISHES THE SUBSTANDARD HEALTHCARE WE ALL FACE?

How many nursing home inspectors or JACHO employees (hospital oversight) are trained to investigate a crime scene, a wrongful death due to Malpractice, neglect, medical errors or abuse? NONE How long after the crime has been committed do these so-called inspectors have to get to the crime scene. WEEKS AND MONTHS. How much evidence has been swept under the carpet or is there even a corpse left to examine after this length of time? That's what I mean when I tell you these oversight systems were set up with the intention of failure.

What is most frightening about all of this, is the common knowledge that you face only a slap on the wrist instead of a prison term, that you will receive a small fine instead of having to pay back all you stole WITH PENALTIES AND PUNISHMENT, and the common knowledge of how easy it really is to steal millions from tax funds. All this lack of accountability draws the criminal element just like a moth to a light.

So can we expect it to get better? Don't hold your breath. There is no movement to replace the failed oversight systems, with a system TO PROTECT THE CITIZENS INSTEAD OF THE CRIMINALS.

"Junk and frivolous lawsuits" is the term of choice for President Bush, who told an audience in Youngstown, Ohio, last month that "junk and frivolous lawsuits discourage good docs from even practicing medicine in the first place."

Senate Majority Leader Bill First Tennessee also a doctor, keeps pushing his bill down our throats to stop class action lawsuits, Senator Orrin Hatch a chief sponsor of the bill together they will try again next session to make their bill, A LAW.

So as we can see, the criminals are going to get protected at the cost of our lives, the lives of our loved ones and anyone else who has the misfortune of needing a doctor, hospital care or nursing home care. As long as our politicians can ALL BE BOUGHT WITH CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS, the protectors we have elected will protect those who have stolen our tax dollars and are willing to share them with our elected officials.

- Ila Swan

 



Vol. VI, No. 9 –March 2, 2004

Headlines: Health Care Fraud and Abuse

Whistleblower Complaint Settled for $2.6 Million

On February 26, US Attorney for the Maryland Northern Division Thomas M. DiBiagio announced that Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center will pay the US Government more than $2.6 million to settle allegations that the institutions violated the False Claims Act with regard to claims in connection with federally sponsored research grants. The government alleged that Johns Hopkins misled the US into paying more money than the University was lawfully entitled. For more:

http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/md/press_releases/press04/JHUsettlePR.pdf

NY Hospital to Pay $850,000

On February 20, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Roslynn R. Mauskopf announced that Stony Brook University Hospital and the State University of New York agreed to pay $850,000 to settle allegations that it defrauded Medicare by double billing for pharmaceuticals administered to patients from 1988-1994. The settlement amount represents approximately double the cost to Medicare of the wrongful conduct. For more: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nye/pr/2004feb20.htm

On February 26, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist announced the arrest of a Ft. Lauderdale man on Medicaid fraud violations and drug trafficking charges in the South Florida region. Fausto Capella, 40, was charged with Medicaid fraud, unlicensed practice of medicine, trafficking in oxycodone and grand theft.

Ft. Lauderdale Man Arrested on Medicaid Fraud and other Charges

 

Also, on February 24, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist announced the arrest of a doctor and two other men as part of a continuing crackdown on prescription drug fraud. The three men – Carlos Luis and Adalberto Hernandez, both of Miami, and Dr. Edward Safille of Davie – are accused of buying the cancer drugs Lupron and Serostim, worth millions of dollars, and selling them to wholesalers. Two other men involved in the case, Eddie Mor and Javier Rodriguez, both of Davie, have agreed to surrender to authorities.

crackdown on prescription drug fraud

 

MO Speech Therapist Guilty of Medicaid Fraud

On February 23, a Columbia speech therapist pleaded guilty to three counts of Medicaid fraud after he admitted submitting false claims for services he did not provide. Paul M. Foreman, who repaid the Medicaid program $105,210 for the false claims, was given 60 days shock confinement and placed on supervised probation for five years. The sentence of four years in prison on each count, concurrent, was suspended by Circuit Judge Donald Barnes pending Foreman successfully completing his probation. Foreman also was ordered to pay $5,625 to the Attorney General´s Office for investigative costs.

http://www.ago.state.mo.us/newsreleases/2004/022304.htm

 

Doctor and Pharmacist Convicted Medicare Fraud Scam

On February 20, New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey announced that the owner of a defunct Newark pharmacy pleaded guilty in Essex County Superior Court to “laundering” more than $1.8 million in stolen monies obtained, in part, from one of the largest Medicaid Fraud scams yet uncovered by the Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. For more:

http://www.state.nj.us/lps/newsreleases04/pr20040220a.html

 

Abbott Laboratories agrees to huge fines


By MICHAEL SHAW Post-Dispatch

updated: 07/23/2003 10:51 PM

Abbott Laboratories Inc. and a subsidiary agreed Wednesday to pay $600 million in fines and restitution to settle a criminal investigation and civil suit over the way it sold feeding devices for disabled patients nationwide.

With an executive speaking for the company, Abbott subsidiary CG Nutritionals Inc. pleaded guilty of obstruction of a criminal investigation. He admitted to the government's version of what happened - that the company tried to mislead programs such as Medicare over how much nursing-home customers were paying for its products.

The company avoided an indictment in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis with the plea, offered to U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy by CG Nutritionals Vice President and Treasurer Terrence Kearney. The company will pay a $200 million criminal fine.

Also on Wednesday, an Abbott division, Ross Products, reached a civil settlement and agreed to pay $400 million to resolve claims that it had defrauded the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs in a similar way.

The agreements still need Murphy's approval, but the judge indicated Wednesday he likely will give it.

Both cases centered on the marketing of feeding tubes, pumps and liquid food sold largely to nursing homes for patients who, because of disease or other disorder, can't eat normally.

Among the claims, the government said Abbott and its subsidiary gave deep discounts to customers to attract their business, then counseled them on how to conceal the discounts from Medicare, which reimbursed the customers at its full rate. This took place from 1992 through 2001, according to a recounting of the facts acknowledged by the Abbott executive.

The investigation did not allege patient harm.

Abbott had disclosed in financial filings July 10 that it had set aside $622 million in anticipation of settling the claims.

The case is the first conviction arising from Operation Headwaters, an undercover sting targeting medical companies that were suspected of bilking government health-care programs. The sting, launched in 1999, was operated from a nondescript office in Swansea, where government agents posed as medical retailers for a fictitious company, Southern Medical Distributors.

Abbott's attorneys declined to comment after the hearing, but the company, headquartered near Chicago, issued a statement concerning the civil settlement. It said the Ross Products division "cooperated fully with the government during its investigation. Although the industry-wide practices were long standing, Ross began voluntarily changing its sales and marketing practices earlier this year to address government concerns."

Richard Byrne, deputy U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said after the hearing that the settlement is not a record-breaker, but it is sizable. "It's a very substantial civil and criminal settlement on behalf of the people of this district and elsewhere."

Overall, the sting is expected to expose more than $1 billion in fraud; Abbott is the second company to be identified publicly.

Of the $400 million settlement by the Abbott division, $382 million will go to the federal government and $17 million to state Medicaid programs. The Illinois attorney general's office said the state will get nearly $1 million. A figure for Missouri was not immediately available.

Reporter Michael Shaw:
E-mail: mshaw@post-dispatch.com
Phone: 618-235-3988

 

http://www.redding.com/redd/nw_local/article/0,2232,REDD_17533_3052763,00.html

Congressmen start bill to stop fraud in hospitals

RMC used as example of facility where federal oversight didn't work

By Maline Hazle, Record Searchlight

July 21, 2004

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan bill that one senator said would help avoid faulty evaluations that allowed years of unnecessary coronary surgeries to go undetected at Redding Medical Center was introduced Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

The bill would vastly increase federal oversight of the independent Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), which, under the original Medicare Act of 1965, has sole power to deem hospitals eligible for Medicare payments.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, who introduced the legislation, also released findings of a Government Accountability Office investigation. That probe reported that other government surveys found serious deficiencies at 123 of 500 JCAHO-accredited hospitals.

Problems missed by JCAHO surveyors include inadequate hospital procedures to prevent spread of infections, inability to assure competent performance of doctors and nurses, and failure to adequately protect patients and staff from fires, Stark said.

The ranking member of the Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, Stark first voiced concerns about hospital accreditation deficiencies at a 1990 committee hearing.

"While it would be unreasonable to conclude, based on this investigation, that there's widespread failure within the system, deliberate action is long overdue," he said in a press release.

"Approval from the joint commission is supposed to be the gold standard, not a rubber stamp," Grassley said at a press conference Tuesday.

"These serious deficiencies are problems that can't be dismissed as one-time incidents," he added. "They're the kind of problems that may put multiple lives at risk."

Although the GAO report did not mention specific hospitals, Grassley singled out RMC as a "worst-case scenario resulting from a serious deficiency" that went unnoticed by accreditation panels from JCAHO.

Grassley, who heads the Senate finance committee, is conducting an investigation of RMC and its parent, Tenet Healthcare Corp.

In Tuesday's remarks, Grassley noted that the joint commission accredited Redding "and its renowned cardiac care department " in 1999 and 2002, before the October 2002 federal raid of the hospital and the offices of its top cardiologist and cardiac surgeon.

"Redding was a hugely profitable hospital for Tenet," Grassley said. "It boasted about high scores from the joint commission."

But, he added, "many highly profitable, but unnecessary open-heart surgeries were performed at Redding dating back to 1999."

And the joint commission "never identified the systemic problems at Redding," he said.

"A state surveyor found that there was no physician review of heart surgery patients who had complications or died there. The medical staff at Redding were not held accountable by their peers or by Tenet," Grassley said.

"We don't know exactly how many patients suffered unnecessarily at Redding, but hundreds had medically unnecessary heart surgeries or procedures."

Tenet spokesman Steve Campanini said Tuesday that the corporation has not had enough time to evaluate the GAO report, which does not specifically mention any hospital, or remarks by Grassley and Stark. He had no further comment.

Tenet last week completed sale of the 246-bed hospital to Charlotte, N.C.-based Hospital Partners of America, which immediately renamed it Shasta Regional Medical Center.

In a written response to the GAO investigation, joint commission on accreditation president Dennis S. O'Leary said he does not object to oversight from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but "takes great exception to the fact" that the GAO conclusion is "based upon a flawed study methodology and erroneous, alarming statistics that seriously mislead the public."

O'Leary noted that the joint commission adopted new accreditation procedures in January.

It is "irresponsible to alarm the public using statistics that have little meaning and that do not reflect the true oversight of America's hospitals through Medicare's public-private sector partnership with the joint committee," O'Leary said.

Reporter Maline Hazle can be reached at 225-8266 or at mhazle@redding.com

 

 

California State Auditor/Bureau of State Audits

Summary of Report Number I98-2 - September 1998

Investigations of Improper Activities by State Employees

February 1 Through June 30, 1998

SUMMARY

The Bureau of State Audits (bureau) administers the Reporting of Improper Governmental Activities Act (act) contained in Section 8547, and following, of the California Government Code. The act defines "improper governmental activity" as any action by a state agency or state employee during the performance of official duties that violates any state or federal law or regulation; that is economically wasteful; or that involves gross misconduct, incompetence, or inefficiency. The bureau receives and investigates complaints of improper governmental activities. To enable state employees and the public to report these activities, the state auditor maintains the toll-free Whistleblower Hotline (hotline). The hotline number is (800) 952-5665.

This report details the results of the eight investigations completed by the bureau and other agencies between February 1 and June 30, 1998, that substantiated complaints. Following are examples of the substantiated improper activities:

Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development

An employee took a leave of absence from OSHPD to work for a corporation regulated in part by OSHPD. Prior to his leave, he improperly approved plans for a $4 million project the corporation submitted.

During his leave of absence, this same employee improperly represented the corporation before OSHPD on projects he had previously approved while working at OSHPD.

This same employee failed to disclose his financial interest in the corporation.

Department of Health Services

As a result of filing false attendance claims, one employee received $3,817 from the State for 154 hours she did not work.

A manager may have allowed this same employee to work overtime without compensation, thereby creating a potential liability for the State of more than $100,000.

Another employee improperly claimed, and her manager improperly approved, $19,000 in reimbursements for relocation and commuting expenses.

Yet another manager improperly claimed reimbursement of $748 for meals and other expenses.

Two other employees failed to disclose their financial interests in outside employment.

Public Utilities Commission

One rail inspector improperly claimed $1,414 in travel reimbursements although his state calling card records indicate that he was not on business-related travel.

This same rail inspector and five others improperly claimed at least $6,570 in reimbursements for lodging expenses they did not incur.

Department of Corrections

An attorney improperly accepted transportation on a private airplane from an opposing counsel's law firm.

This same attorney failed to disclose these gifts of transportation on her statement of economic interests.

Stephen P. Teale Data Center

Despite knowing a procurement analyst had a personal relationship with a vendor's account executive, a manager directed her to continue purchases from the vendor. As a result, an appearance of a conflict of interest was created.

This report also summarizes corrective actions taken by state entities as a result of investigations presented here or reported previously by the state auditor.

If, after investigating any allegations, the state auditor determines reasonable evidence exists of improper governmental activity, the bureau confidentially reports the details of the activity to the head of the employing agency or the appropriate appointing authority. The employer or appointing authority is required to notify the state auditor of any corrective action taken, including disciplinary action, no later than 30 days after the date the state auditor transmits the confidential investigative report. If employers or appointing authorities do not complete the actions within 30 days, they must report to the state auditor monthly until they complete the actions.

In addition, Appendix A contains statistics on the complaints received by the bureau between February 1 and June 30, 1998. It also summarizes our actions on those or other pending complaints as of February 1, 1998.

Finally, Appendix B details the laws, regulations, and policies that govern the improper activities discussed in this report.

 

 

Abstracts of GAO Reports and Testimony, FY99

T-HEHS-99-89, Mar. 22, 1999 (11 pages). Nursing Homes: Stronger Complaint and Enforcement Practices Needed to Better Ensure Adequate Care, by William J. Scanlon, Director, Health Financing and Public Health Issues, before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. [Text] [PDF]

Federal and state practices for investigating complaints about nursing home care are often not as effective as they should be. GAO found many problems in the 14 states it reviewed, including procedures or practices that may limit the filing of complaints, understatement of the seriousness of complaints, and failure to investigate serious complaints promptly. Complaints alleging that nursing home residents were being harmed have gone uninvestigated for weeks or months. During that time, residents may have remained vulnerable to abuse, neglect (which can lead to serious problems like malnutrition and dehydration), preventable accidents, and medication errors. Although the federal government finances more than 70 percent of complaint investigations nationwide, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) plays a minimal role in providing states with direction and oversight regarding these investigations. HCFA has left it largely to the states to decide which complaints put residents in immediate jeopardy and should be investigated immediately. More generally, HCFA's oversight of state agencies that certify federally qualified nursing homes has not focused on complaint investigations. GAO recommends (1) stronger federal requirements for states to promptly investigate serious complaints alleging situations that may harm residents but are not classified as posing an immediate threat, (2) more federal monitoring of states' efforts to respond to complaints, and (3) better tracking of the substantial findings of complaint investigations. This testimony summarizes the March 1999 GAO report, GAO/HEHS-99-80.

Nursing Homes: Complaint Investigation Processes Often Inadequate to

Protect Residents (Letter Report, 03/22/99, GAO/HEHS-99-80).

Federal and state practices for investigating complaints about nursing home care are often not as effective as they should be. GAO found many problems in the 14 states it reviewed, including procedures or practices that may limit the filing of complaints, understatement of the seriousness of complaints, and failure to investigate serious complaints promptly. Complaints alleging that nursing home residents were being harmed have gone uninvestigated for weeks or months. During that time, residents may have remained vulnerable to abuse, neglect (which can lead to serious problems like malnutrition and dehydration), preventable accidents, and medication errors. Although the federal government finances more than 70 percent of complaint investigations nationwide, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) plays a minimal role in providing states with direction and oversight regarding these investigations. HCFA has left it largely to the states to decide which complaints put residents in immediate jeopardy and should be investigated immediately. More generally, HCFA's oversight of state agencies that certify federally qualified nursing homes has not focused on complaint investigations. GAO recommends (1) stronger federal requirements for states to promptly investigate serious complaints alleging situations that may harm residents but are not classified as posing an immediate threat, (2) more federal monitoring of states' efforts to respond to complaints, and (3) better tracking of the substantial findings of complaint investigations. GAO summarized this report and the preceding one in testimony before Congress; see: Nursing Homes: Stronger Complaint and Enforcement Practices Needed to Better Ensure Adequate Care, by William J. Scanlon, Director of Health Financing and Public Health Issues, before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. GAO/T-HEHS-99-89, Mar. 22 (10 pages).  

Abstracts of GAO Reports and Testimony, FY00

HEHS-00-6, Nov. 4, 1999 (45 pages). Nursing Home Care: Enhanced HCFA Oversight of State Programs Would Better Ensure Quality. [Text] [PDF]

The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) oversees how well each state agency ensures quality care in nursing homes, but the mechanisms HCFA uses are of limited scope and effectiveness. Because the mechanisms are not applied consistently in HCFA's 10 regional offices, HCFA lacks sufficient, consistent, and reliable data with which to evaluate the effectiveness of state agencies' performance or the success of its recent initiatives to improve nursing home care. HCFA cannot be certain whether some states are failing to identify serious deficiencies that harm nursing home residents. HCFA also lacks an adequate array of effective sanctions to encourage state agencies to correct serious or widespread problems. GAO recommends that HCFA improve (1) the scope and the rigor of its oversight process through the state surveys and (2) the consistency in how it holds state survey agencies accountable by standardizing procedures for selecting state surveys and conducting federal monitoring surveys. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress; see: Nursing Homes: HCFA Should Strengthen Its Oversight of State Agencies to Better Ensure Quality Care, by William J. Scanlon, Director of Health, Financing, and Public Health Issues, before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. GAO/T-HEHS-00-27, Nov. 4 (10 pages).

Nursing home regulators accused

Federal group says inspection reports sanitized

By CLARK KAUFFMAN

REGISTER STAFF WRITER

Copyright 2004, Des Moines Register and Tribune Company

July 9, 2004

A federal agency is accusing Iowa nursing home regulators of whitewashing inspectors' reports by downgrading violations that would otherwise result in stiffer penalties against the homes.

The allegations are made in a new report from Iowa Protection and Advocacy, a federally chartered organization that advocates for mentally ill and disabled people. The report, which is expected to be made public today, marks the third time in recent years that a federal agency has accused the Department of Inspections and Appeals of downgrading health and safety violations found in nursing homes.

"The public has a right to demand accurate and honest reporting," the report says. "Incomplete final reports are not only misleading, but can give the public a false sense of security."

The agency based its findings on what it acknowledges was a "cursory analysis" of 3,000 state records related to inspections at six Iowa nursing homes. The documents included the handwritten notes of the on-site inspectors, as well as the final inspection reports published on the Department of Inspections and Appeals Web site.

In theory, the published inspection reports represent the actual findings of on-site inspectors. However, the advocacy group argues that state administrators are sanitizing some inspectors' reports by deleting or downgrading certain violations before the reports are made public. The federal agency suggests that state regulators are making those changes to "reflect a false hope or improvement" in the care that's being delivered in Iowa homes.

Inspections and Appeals spokesman David Werning said his agency would not comment "on any claimed report of alleged findings."

He said inspectors' reports routinely face "quality-compliance reviews" that are required by law. "To suggest that the mandated quality review undermines aggressive regulation demonstrates a lack of understanding of the process," he said.

The federal agency's report describes one instance in which a state inspector faulted a home for the loss or theft of residents' belongings and the failure to prevent bedsores. According to the report, state program coordinators deleted the bedsore violations because the inspector hadn't documented the size of those sores. The final report also made no mention of missing clothing, money and charge cards belonging to residents.

At another home, the state's published inspection report made no mention of an inspector's findings that related to unanswered call lights, inadequate staffing, missing property, improper food preparation and the alleged distribution of medicine by an uncertified aide.

Iowa Protection and Advocacy is not the only agency to allege that state administrators are downgrading the violations found by inspectors.

In March 2003 , the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a report that said Iowa was leading the nation in the number of alleged nursing home violations that state administrators either downgraded or deleted from the final inspection reports released to the public. According to that report, 25 percent of all alleged nursing home violations were downgraded in Iowa. Most other states reported rates of 1 percent to 10 percent.

Last summer, the federal General Accounting Office issued a report that said final inspection reports issued by several states routinely understated the seriousness of problems.

The inspector general's report was based on a written survey filled out by a state official. Werning said the official misunderstood a question on the form.

Werning said the GAO finding also was the result of a misunderstanding. The GAO, he said, was "Monday-morning quarterbacking" and making its own assumptions as to what sort of violations were deserving of the more serious citations.

A Des Moines Register review of state records related to unemployment benefits indicates that even in cases in which nursing home administrators or accused workers acknowledge abuse or neglect, the state might not act.

For example:

• State records indicate that Ashley DeGroot and Amber Scholten were fired in April from Pleasant Acres Care Center in Hull where they worked as caregivers. A co-worker and a resident reported seeing DeGroot deliberately spray a chemical shoe deodorizer in the face of an elderly woman who was trying to sleep. The co-worker gave a written statement in which she said DeGroot had boasted of targeting the woman for harassment. "I just like to piss her off," DeGroot allegedly said.

During the home's investigation into that incident, other residents and workers complained that DeGroot and Scholten were often neglectful, physically rough or verbally abusive to certain residents.

The home itself notified police and state inspectors and fired both workers. The Department of Inspections and Appeals, however, took no action and never mentioned the matter in an inspection report.

Werning says that's because the investigation failed to substantiate allegation of abuse.

• Late last year, Lisa M. Meyer , a certified nurse aide from Davenport, was fired from the Davenport Lutheran Home for the Aged after five co-workers claimed she had twisted the nipples of male residents or made sexually inappropriate comments. According to state records, one of the workers told administrators at the home that she had seen Meyer grabbing the penis of one male resident who was waving his arms in protest. Meyer faces criminal charges of sexual exploitation and neglect, but state inspection reports make no mention of abuse or neglect.

• Last October, Mary Luethje , a licensed practical nurse from Marshalltown, was fired from the Grandview Heights nursing home in Marshalltown. A resident had complained directly to an inspector that Luethje was sleeping while on duty. Other employees of the home reportedly told administrators they had seen Luethje sleeping as often as three times per night and for 10 to 45 minutes at a stretch. Luethje allegedly admitted that she slept on duty. The inspection agency, however, never mentioned the matter in any of its reports.

http://www.modernhealthcare.com/news.cms?newsId=2605&potId=BN

Health costs burden both uninsured, insured

Story posted June 30, 2004 4:00 PM ET

Almost 20 million American families, including about 13.5 million families with health insurance, had trouble paying their medical bills in 2003, according to a report by the Center of Studying Health System Change. While uninsured families were more likely than families with insurance to have problems paying their bills, 68% of those who had problems were insured, the center said. The 20 million families represent 43 million people. More than 30% of the families did not fill a prescription, 25.2% delayed obtaining care and 12.4% skipped needed care completely because of cost concerns, the center said. Because of medical debt, families also sometimes had problems paying for food, housing and transportation, the center said. Read the report. http://www.hschange.org/CONTENT/689/

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 18, 2002

9 of 10 Nursing Homes Lack Adequate Staff, Study Finds

By ROBERT PEAR

R. Scott Martin for The New York Times

Anna M. Spinella of Tampa, Fla., has become an advocate for legislation protecting nursing home residents. She said she had friends and relatives at Florida nursing homes that were "dreadfully short-staffed."

 

 

Graphic: The Level of Care at Nursing Homes

 

 

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 — More than 90 percent of the nation's nursing homes have too few workers to take proper care of patients, a new federal study has found.

But the Bush administration, citing the costs involved, says it has no plans to set minimum staffing levels for nursing homes, hoping instead that the problem will be resolved through market forces and more efficient use of existing nurses and nurse's aides.

The report, ordered by Congress and prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services, concludes that "it is not currently feasible" for the federal government to require that homes achieve a minimum ratio of nursing staff to patients, as many experts have recommended, largely because of cost. It would take $7.6 billion a year, an 8 percent increase over current spending, to reach adequate staffing levels, the report says.

Instead of imposing new rules, the Bush administration said, it wants to publish data on the number of workers at each nursing home, in the hope that "nurse staffing levels may simply increase due to the market demand created by an informed public."

Also, the administration said, it will encourage nursing homes to adopt better management techniques, so nurse's aides can achieve "high productivity."

The report, which will be sent to Congress in a few weeks, found "strong and compelling" evidence that nursing homes with a low ratio of nursing personnel to patients were more likely to provide substandard care.

Patients in these homes were more likely to experience bedsores, malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, pneumonia and serious blood- borne infections, the report said.

Its conclusions about the prevalence of staffing problems were borne out in interviews around the country with relatives of nursing home residents.

Anna M. Spinella, 67, of Tampa, Fla., said she had friends and relatives at nursing homes that were "dreadfully short-staffed."

As a result, said Mrs. Spinella, an advocate for legislation protecting nursing home residents "a lot of people are left in bed, wet, and labeled as incontinent and bedbound when, in fact, they are continent, but the nursing home does not have enough staff to transfer them from bed to the bathroom."

State inspection reports confirm that concern, saying that patients at a Tampa nursing home were found in "wet, unchanged beds."

Phyllis A. Moga, 50, said she visited her mother three times a week for three years at a nursing home in suburban Detroit.

"Food was put in front of the residents, but there was not enough staff to help them eat," Ms. Moga said. "Many patients have dementia or are stroke victims, so they don't have the ability to feed themselves, or even to know they should be eating."

On two occasions, Ms. Moga said, "I caught a woman who was climbing out of bed and was trapped in the bedrail, screaming for help, but there was no staff nearby to help her."

In most nursing homes, the report said, a patient needs an average of 4.1 hours of care each day — 2.8 hours from nurse's aides and 1.3 hours from registered nurses or licensed practical nurses.

Dr. John F. Schnelle, a co-author of the report, said the recommendations would require homes to have one nurse's aide for every five or six residents from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Currently, he said, it is common for nursing homes to have 1 aide for every 8 to 14 residents.

"In 2000, over 91 percent of nursing homes had nurse aide staffing levels that fell below the thresholds identified as minimally necessary to provide the needed care," the report said.

In addition, it said, "over 40 percent of all nursing homes would need to increase nurse aide staffing by 50 percent or more to reach the minimum threshold associated with their resident population."

Curtis R. Montgomery, 44, a certified nursing assistant in Monterey, Calif., said patients were more likely to fall and injure themselves in homes that were short of staff members.

"There's nobody to walk with the patients from the dining room to the bedroom, and they fall when they try to do it on their own," Mr. Montgomery said in an interview.

Sephia A. Nava, 43, a certified nursing assistant in Manteca, Calif., said: "Patients are supposed to be turned every two hours, and they're supposed to get showers twice a week, but when one nurse's aide is responsible for 15 patients, how can you do that? It's almost impossible."

The study highlights difficult choices that will increasingly confront an aging society. The population age 85 and older, the group most likely to need long-term care, is expected to double, to 8.9 million, by 2030.

Congress ordered the study in a 1990 law. The Clinton administration issued preliminary findings in July 2000. The Bush administration is expected to send Congress the final report and recommendations within a month.

To reach the recommended staffing levels, the report said, nursing homes would have to hire 77,000 to 137,000 registered nurses, 22,000 to 27,000 licensed practical nurses and 181,000 to 310,000 nurse's aides. This would increase overall demand for registered nurses by 5 percent to 9 percent, while the demand for nurse's aides would rise 13 percent to 21 percent. Nursing home executives said they would have difficulty finding the additional workers.

The figures reflect the number of additional nursing employees needed to care for Medicaid patients, who account for about two-thirds of nursing home residents, and Medicare patients, who typically have shorter stays.

Nurse's aides provide 90 percent of the front-line care in nursing homes. They help patients with eating, dressing and going to the bathroom, provide regular exercise for many patients and reposition those who are immobile.

Medicaid and Medicare, the insurance programs for low-income people, the elderly and the disabled, help pay for three-fourths of nursing home residents. So they would incur additional costs if nursing homes hired more nurses and nurse's aides.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company | Privacy Information

Study: Average CFO salary for multi-facility LTC companies $193,000

February 20 2004

The average salary for CFOs of multi-facility long-term care companies is $193,000, according to a new salary study released by the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service. In addition, the average annual bonus for those CFOs was nearly $67,000, according to the “2003-2004 Multi-Facility Corporate Compensation Report” from HCS.

For CFOs at chains with less than $50 million in annual revenues, the average salary was $115,000 and the average bonus was $12,000. The averages rose considerably for the $50 million to $250 million category ($186,000 salary and $40,000 bonus) and the over $250 million category ($289,000 salary and $143,000 bonus).

Long-term care salaries were generally sandwiched between those for multi-hospital and home-health multi-facility CFOs. The overall averages for salary and bonus for CFOs at multi-hospital companies were $232,000 and $95,000. In home health, the averages were $145,000 and 66,000. The 160-page report includes data from 88 of the nation's top 250 companies.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/health/2004-02-12-healthcosts_x.htm

Posted 2/12/2004 12:57 AM

Almost $1.7 trillion spent on health care in '03

By Julie Appleby, USA TODAY

The USA spent nearly $1.7 trillion on health care last year, although the rate at which spending increased slowed for the first time in years.

A small decrease in medical prices, coupled with less spending by states on Medicaid programs, helped slow the increase, a report published Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says.

National spending grew a projected 7.8% in 2003, down from 9.3% in 2002. Still, the country spent $5,805 per person on health care in 2003, an amount that far exceeds the per capita amount spent in every other industrialized nation.

Health care accounted for 15.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) last year, the fifth-consecutive year that "more of the nation's resources (were) allocated to health care," according to the report.

Despite the slower rate of growth, the report forecasts spending on health care will continue to outpace growth in GDP through 2013. That means health care costs are likely to rise faster than most people's incomes.

"Each year, there are more people who find they just can't afford health care or insurance," says Paul Ginsburg, an economist at the Center for Studying Health System Change, a research group.

The good news for employers and consumers is that growth in health insurance premiums is expected to moderate, slowing to about a 7.1% increase in 2005. The report estimates that premiums rose 10.4% in 2003.

The bad news for many workers is that employers are passing along additional insurance costs, through increased premiums and bigger out-of-pocket charges, which are what patients pay when they visit the doctor or fill a prescription.

http://www.modernhealthcare.com/dailydose/2004-07-13_dailydose.html#ts2

Physician recruitment deals on FBI's watch list

The FBI is focusing more attention on an increasingly common practice by hospitals, paying physicians to relocate to work at the hospitals' facilities, a potential kickback arrangement, said Tim Delaney, head of the FBI's healthcare fraud unit. The unit, which has agents in 56 offices nationwide, investigates about 2,000 cases at any given time, with prescription drugs and durable medical equipment among the top areas of growing fraud, Delaney said. Most hospital cases continue to center on erroneous cost reporting, he said. Delaney was speaking at a news conference held by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, which announced that its fraud recoveries had grown 52% to $240 million in 2003. Byron Hollis, the Blues' national antifraud director, said the association's recently created antifraud strike force has been a big help in coordinating fraud-fighting efforts across jurisdictions and with government agencies. Of the estimated $1.7 trillion spent in the U.S. on healthcare in 2003, $85 billion was lost to fraud, Hollis said. Healthcare "is where the money is," Delaney said. "That's where the crooks are going these days." -- by Jeff Tieman

http://www.citizen.org/congress/reform/rx_benefits/drug_benefit/articles.cfm?ID=11852

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Frank Clemente (202) 441-9818

June 23, 2004

Craig Aaron (202) 454-5167

Drug Industry and HMOs Deployed an Army of Nearly 1,000 Lobbyists to Push Medicare Bill, Report Finds

Study Shows Special Interests Spent $141 Million in 2003, Hired 431

Lobbyists With "Revolving Door" Connections to Congress and the White House

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In the final push for Medicare prescription drug legislation, the pharmaceutical industry, HMOs and related interests spent more money and hired more lobbyists in 2003 than ever before, according to a report issued today by Public Citizen.

The pharmaceutical and managed care industries spent a combined $141 million last year, according to Public Citizen's analysis of newly released federal lobbying disclosure records. Drugmakers and HMOs hired 952 individual lobbyists in 2003 - nearly half of whom had "revolving door" connections to Congress, the White House or the executive branch. That's nearly 10 lobbyists for every U.S. senator.

"The Medicare Modernization Act, a top priority of President Bush, promises to safeguard industry profits at the expense of America's taxpayers," said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch. "Considering the legion of lobbyists unleashed by pharmaceutical companies, HMOs and allied industry front groups, no wonder taxpayers

ended up with a bill tailor-made to serve these special interests instead of senior citizens."

Since 1997, Public Citizen has conducted an annual study of Washington lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry. Today's report, The Medicare Drug War, exposes the extent of the drug industry's latest lobbying barrage. Among its findings:

* In 2003, the drug industry spent a record $108.6 million on federal lobbying activities and hired 824 individual lobbyists - both all-time highs. In 2002, based on a more narrowly defined survey, the drug industry spent $91.4 million and hired 675 lobbyists.

* This army of lobbyists helped ensure that the new drug benefit will be administered by private companies. The new law expressly prohibits the government from using its bargaining clout to negotiate lower prices and effectively bans the "reimportation" of cheaper drugs from Canada.

* The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represents more than 40 brand-name drug companies, shelled out more than $16 million last year on lobbying, a 12.5 percent increase from the year before. PhRMA alone hired 136 lobbyists.

* HMOs and other managed-care health plans mounted an extensive lobbying effort. Managed care companies that lobbied on the Medicare bill spent $32.3 million on federal lobbying in 2003. HMOs and health plans hired 222 lobbyists to work on the Medicare bill.

* Managed care lobbyists helped ensure their clients got a windfall in the bill - $531.5 billion over 10 years based on data from the Medicare actuary - as enrollment in managed care plans is expected to climb from 12 percent to 32 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries..

* The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association spent more on lobbying than any other health plan in 2003, shelling out $8.1 million. The two major industry trade associations - the American Association of Health Plans (AAHP) and the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA), which merged in October 2003 - spent a combined $8.3 million.

Both the pharmaceutical and managed care industries relied heavily on lobbyists with "revolving door" connections. In all, 431 lobbyists employed by the drug industry or HMOs - or 45 percent of all their lobbyists - previously worked for the federal government. Among them were 30 ex-U.S. senators and representatives - 18 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

* At least 11 top staffers who left the Bush administration lobbied for the drug industry and HMOs in 2003. White House and administration insiders working as lobbyists on the Medicare bill included several former top advisers to Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson.

* The exodus from the administration has accelerated since Bush signed the new Medicare law. At least four key Bush administration officials - most notably Tom Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) - have exited to help industry clients benefit from the Medicare bill that they wrote or promoted.. Another six top congressional staffers at the center of negotiations over the Medicare bill now lobby for drug companies or HMOs.

* The revolving door spins both ways. Three prominent drug industry and HMO lobbyists have recently moved into senior health policy positions at HHS. Another is now a spokesman for the Bush campaign. And the lead White House negotiator on the Medicare bill - presidential adviser Doug Badger - previously represented half a dozen drug companies as a lobbyist.

* Drug industry and HMO executives and lobbyists ranked among Bush's elite fundraisers. Twenty-one executives and lobbyists achieved "Ranger" or "Pioneer" status by collecting at least $200,000 or $100,000, respectively, for Bush in the 2000 or 2004 campaigns. (In addition, two of presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry's biggest

backers were lobbyists on the drug industry payroll in 2003.)

"The revolving door between the White House and K Street has made the Bush administration indistinguishable from the industry," said Craig Aaron, senior researcher for Public Citizen's Congress Watch and lead author of the report. "If it wasn't bad enough that most of the key negotiators working on the Medicare bill were preparing to cash in on K Street as soon as it passed, Bush has brought in more drug industry and HMO insiders to implement and promote this disastrous new law."

A copy of Public Citizen's The Medicare Drug War is available at:

http://www.citizen.org/congress/reform/rx_benefits/drug_benefit/articles.cfm?ID=11852

http://www.snalfnews.com/AnalystNews.cfm?id=5622

LTC Daily Analysis Briefs

OIG Finds Improper SNF Payments, but CMS Disallows Recovery

WASHINGTON, DC -- 07/16/2004 -- (Eli Digital) Two new audits from the HHS Office of Inspector General found that fiscal intermediaries made almost $1 million in improper payments to skilled nursing facilities, but a new federal policy prevents recovery of the funds.

From 1997 through 2001, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas was responsible for $559,282 in payments to SNFs for admissions that were not preceded by the required three-day hospital stay, according to the OIG. During that period, Chisholm Administrative Services also improperly paid $383,456 to SNFs because of the same problem.

The OIG believes the payments should be recouped, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last November issued a memorandum instructing all fiscal intermediaries not to initiative any recovery actions relating to the three-day stay requirement. For the BCBS audit, click here. http://oig.hhs.gov/oas/reports/region5/50400033.pdf For the Chisholm audit, click here. http://oig.hhs.gov/oas/reports/region5/50400057.pdf Both reports include the CMS memo to FIs.

 

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/beyond_kenny_boy_and_martha.php

Beyond Kenny Boy And Martha

Charlie Cray

July 21, 2004

 

 

Nearly everything Enron did was “aided and abetted” by its friends in government. From tax breaks to board members in powerful positions to consulting-auditing loopholes, it was all about who you knew. Of course, Enron is no more, and Kenny Boy—who cost investors $60 billion—was just indicted. But there's still no corporate-political firewall, says policy expert Charlie Cray, and that should be making us all nervous.

Charlie Cray is the director of the Center for Corporate Policy and a collaborator on Halliburton Watch. His book, The People´s Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy, (co-authored with Lee Drutman) will be published by Berrett-Koehler in November.

After seeing Ken Lay and 30 other top Enron executives do the “perp walk” (10 have pled guilty so far), it´s tempting to believe that the culprits responsible for the epidemic of corporate crime of recent years may soon have to turn in their pinstripes for wide stripes. Yet while federal prosecutors continue to diligently pluck the rotten apples off the higher branches of the corporate hierarchy, unless and until someone gets serious about addressing the structural roots of that fiasco, we are certain to reap many more bitter harvests in the future.

The Enron Fraud Task Force should be commended for unraveling the complicated details of Enron´s collapse, rejecting any political pressure to quickly file charges against the top brass while painstakingly working their way up the chain of command. Ken Lay´s arrest brings small satisfaction to the tens of thousands of workers, pensioners and small investors who will never recover the $60 billion they lost—an amount the FBI estimates is three times the annual cost of street crime in the entire country.

That the Enron investigation remains open is a good thing, given that many fingerprints were found all over that fraud.

Take Enron´s board. Although the company´s directors have paid a modest sum to settle certain civil suits, it´s unlikely any of them (apart from Lay) will ever do any time. So much for President Bush´s assertion to a roomful of top cops on September 2002 that “ no boardroom in America is above or beyond the law.”

In truth, state “exculpation statutes,” court doctrines (e.g. the “business judgment rule”) and the indemnification clauses that come with most board members´ contracts have made it nearly impossible to hold the directors of these “doom machines” (as corporate governance expert Robert Monks once described the corporate form) to account. Instead, we´re hearing how corporate America is cleaning up its own act. The Business Roundtable claims that “substantial progress” has been made in corporate governance since Enron, because the percentage of independent directors has increased substantially.

Yet directors are hardly “independent” if they are handpicked by the CEO or other board members, and little has changed in that regard. After all, Enron had a majority of outside board members, including a senator´s wife (Wendy Gramm, the former head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, who joined Enron´s board just weeks after pushing through a measure that exempted the company´s energy derivatives contracts from federal oversight) and the dean of the Stanford Business School, who as the chair of the company´s audit committee didn´t notice CFO Andy Fastow´s book-cooking or stop Ken Lay from cashing out while telling employees the stock was still a good buy.

The SEC´s William Donaldson was expected to be a marked improvement over the hapless Harvey Pitt. Under Donaldson´s leadership, the SEC´s budget is nearly double what it was before Enron, when the anemic and overworked enforcement division managed to review just 16 percent of the annual financial reports filed each year. Yet Donaldson, too, has buckled under pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, reversing his support for a modest reform that would permit shareholders to themselves nominate independent directors. So much for all that corporate blather about “shareholder democracy.”

“The Last Thing We Do…”

Since the lawyers have eluded any significant blame, the Enron prosecution drama could also hardly be described as Shakespearean. In his report, the company´s bankruptcy examiner (who himself was paid an eye-popping $100 million to explain what happened) lays out in detail the circumstantial evidence that attorneys at Vinson & Elkins violated their duty by signing off on those infamous “special purpose entities” used to hide the company´s debt off the books.

Experts in securities law correctly view the failure of Enron´s lawyers as just part of a larger systemic pattern. Columbia University Law School´s John Coffee was one of the first to note that key to the entire epidemic of corporate fraud and abuse was a series of court decisions and tort “reform” laws such as the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) of 1995. The PSLRA imposed steep barriers against investors who might want to take the accountants, lawyers and bankers—the market system´s “gatekeepers”—to court for failure to perform their duty and even (in some cases) “aiding and abetting” the fraud itself.

Yet instead of repealing the PSLRA, Congress has taken up the so-called “Class Action Fairness Act,” and other assaults against the rights of aggrieved victims (this time consumers and victims of medical malpractice) who might seek justice through the civil justice system.

Two years after the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the evidence is also clear that the accounting reform law didn´t go far enough. A preliminary report released at the end of June by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB, created by Sarbanes-Oxley to police the accounting industry) found that accounting firms are still providing both auditing and consulting services to the same clients—a circumstance identified as a significant factor in the accounting scandals. Tax consulting fees, for example, only declined from 57 to 43 percent of the amount paid for audit work conducted by the Big Four between 2002 and 2003.

Even business leaders such as the Conference Board´s blue-ribbon Commission on Public Trust and Private Enterprise, co-chaired by John Snow before he became secretary of the Treasury, conclude that audit firms should ultimately be barred from providing other services to the same clients: “[P]ublic accounting firms should limit their services to their clients to performing audits and to providing closely related services that do not put the auditor in an advocacy position, such as novel and debatable tax strategies and products that involve income tax shelters and extensive offshore partnerships.”

The obvious has become inevitable. Within a year after Sarbanes-Oxley, Sen. Carl Levin revealed that accounting firms continue to aggressively sell tax shelters that cost the U.S. Treasury as much as $18 billion a year.

Recall that Enron paid no taxes in four of the five years before filing for bankruptcy. That seemed astonishing until it was revealed that, as in so many other things, Enron was just the extreme example of a broader trend.

Most big U.S. multinationals have converted their tax and accounting departments into high-pressure profit centers working to develop intricate strategies to game the tax code. According to a GAO report released in June, over half of U.S.-based corporations and more than 71 percent of foreign-based firms operating in the United States paid no income tax between 1996 and 2000. And that was before Bush´s rolling series of major corporate tax cuts (there´s “Enronomics” for you—trickle-up fiscal policies designed to let the wealthy cash in before the system collapses).

A proposal by Sen. Levin to close the Sarbanes-Oxley tax-consulting loophole (supported by the SEC) was, of course, quietly shot down.

Other, less-ambitious reforms that have also been tossed out include a proposal by Sens. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Baucus, D-Mont., to eliminate the ability of corporations to deduct any penalty payments from their taxes (a good portion of the Wall Street banks´ settlement with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the SEC will thus be paid by you and me as U.S. taxpayers), as well as a bill that would empower defrauded investors to seek restitution from corporate criminals (by, for instance, eliminating state homestead laws that allow corporate criminals to keep their mansions).

Failing the “Acid Test”

The most obvious evidence of a corporate backlash is the lack of any significant attempt to rein in skyrocketing CEO pay—what Warren Buffet has called the “acid test” of corporate reform. Despite a dip after Enron, U.S. CEOs are still paid well over 300 times the average workers at their companies. The ratio was just 35 to 1 in 1970.

A proposal to force corporations to report stock options on their books—the “steroids of corporate greed” that created a strong incentive for executives to cook the books in order to meet projected earnings so they could buoy the stock price and cash out before the stock price it crashed—has had strong support from hundreds of major Fortune 500 companies, Alan Greenspan, the SEC and Treasury Secretary Snow, Arthur Levitt and many other leading luminaries of economic policy. Yet the proposal has been stalled by stiff resistance from the high-tech industry and diversionary proposals from its allies in Congress.

The dickering and deflection of these modest reforms has had a second benefit for corporate America. It has constricted the debate by consigning any discussion of the broader lessons to the national archives, including the obvious failures of the ideological drive toward deregulation and the self-governance model of corporate capitalism. As James Brock suggests in his new book The Bigness Complex (Stanford), the utter lack of interest in antitrust enforcement combined with the gutting of New Deal-era laws that placed structural restraints on the corporations´ ability to form conglomerates (e.g. Glass-Stegall and the Public Utility Holding Company Act, whose full repeal was supported by both parties in a recent energy bill that failed to pass) has created a corporate economic system whose inherent conflicts of interest are hardly remedied by a patchwork system of regulations laws like Sarbanes-Oxley that attempt to regulate around the edges rather than cut to the core. Thus, instead of an industrial policy debate that even considers anything related to fundamental democratic controls over corporations, we are left with an attenuated discussion over questions of corporate “reform,” including weak suggestions concerning corporate governance, and a blizzard of complicated regulations that only the corporations and their lawyers and lobbyists have the ability to give their sustain attention.

“The Crooked E” and the GOP

Recall that shortly after Enron collapsed, President Bush immediately tried to distance himself from his biggest career patron—all of a sudden “Kenny Boy” had become “Mr. Lay” and “a supporter of Ann Richards in my run (for governor) in 1994.” The Bush spin was also that Enron was a business scandal that had nothing to do with politics—an astonishing assertion from a president whose administration included moret than 40 ex-Enron lobbyists and employees.

Everything Enron did was virtually “aided and abetted” by its friends in government. That´s the nature of crony capitalism. The recent transcripts that surfaced of Enron traders who bragged about sticking it to “grandma Millie” in California, for example, should should remind us that remembering that Ken Lay himself handpicked Bush´s FERC chair (who refused to act during the California crisis until it was obvious that companies like Enron were manipulating the system) and personally lobbied Vice President Cheney to oppose any pressure on the FERC to lower the state electricity price caps.

We were once again reminded of how incestuous Enron and the Republicans were by a July 12 report on the front page of The Washington Post about an ongoing investigation into Texas GOP leader Tom DeLay's use of Enron money for his Texas redistricting project (it´s illegal in Texas for corporations to contribute to state political campaigns).

Obviously there is no business-political firewall. It should terrify us all that in just a short time, “Kenny Boy´s” favorite regime has continues to used “Enronomics” to cook the federal books (remember the story about that projected $44 trillion deficit that was quickly buried?), passing a series of tax cuts so obviously designed to help their rich friends cash out before the entire façade comes crashing down. Yet if history has a way of repeating itself, maybe now that Ken Lay has been dragged off, we´ll start to see some of Enron´s political partners doing the “perp walk” too.

Yahoo Dow Jones Business News

US Collects $1.3 Billion In Actions Against Health Care Fraud

Fri Apr 26, 2:20 PM ET

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. government says it collected more than $1.3 billion last year because of actions taken against health-care fraud.

The Justice and Health and Human Services (news - web sites) departments said Friday some of the judgments, settlements and administrative impositions in 2001 will result in collections in future years.

The departments added that some of the 2001 collections are attributable to actions from prior years.

They said more than 90% of the money collected in 2001 was returned to the Medicare trust fund.

Federal prosecutors last year filed 445 criminal indictments in health care fraud cases. A total of 465 defendants were convicted for crimes related to health care fraud in 2001.

There were 1,746 civil matters pending and 188 civil cases filed at the same time.

  -By Jeff Bater, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-6616; Jeff.Bater@dowjones.com

  (This story was originally published by Dow Jones Newswires)

  Copyright (c) 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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