House and Senate Restaurants: Current Operations and Issues for Congress

Source: Sarah J. Eckman, Congressional Research Service, August 23, 2016

Those involved with restaurant administration in the House and Senate have often considered how management choices affect operating costs, services available, oversight, and other elements of the restaurant systems. For much of their histories, the House and Senate operated their own restaurants, but since 1994 in the House and since 2008 in the Senate, private vendors have run the restaurants. In August 2015, the House entered an agreement with Sodexo to operate the 17 facilities in the House restaurant system, subject to direction from the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and the Committee on House Administration. In December 2015, the Senate entered a new contract with Restaurant Associates to operate the 12 facilities in the Senate restaurant system, subject to direction from the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) and the Committee on Rules and Administration. … Food and price issues, along with other day-to-day operational issues, including personnel matters, are largely the responsibility of the restaurant contractors. Some Members and observers have raised concerns about the degree of accountability for the House and Senate restaurant contractors, believing that the restaurants’ administration reflects upon Congress and that the restaurants should set an example for other businesses to follow. Although the House and Senate are responsible for restaurant oversight, the delegation of restaurant operations to private contractors means the chambers have less control over employee wages and benefits, procurement, or other business decisions that affect the restaurant systems. …

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Senate Cafeteria Workers Will Receive $1 million in Backpay from Restaurant Associates
Source: Lauren Godles, On Labor, July 26, 2016

Today, the Department of Labor announced today that the Senate cafeteria workers who were illegally denied wages will receive $1 million dollars in backpay from Restaurant Associates (RA) and its subcontractor, Personnel Plus. The money will be split among 674 employees, though DOL did not specify how much particular individuals will receive. … In an official investigation, DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) concluded that RA misclassified the cafeteria workers, in violation of the Service Contract Act. RA was also found to have violated the FLSA. According to the Associated Press, the WHD is considering whether RA should be banned from future government contracts. …

Most Senate cafeteria workers were mistreated on wages, top Capitol official says
Source: Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, March 21, 2016

A majority of the roughly 90 blue-collar restaurant workers serving the U.S. Senate were improperly classified by their private employer, a top U.S. Capitol administrator told a congressional committee last week, putting them at risk of being underpaid and prompting a Labor Department inquiry into the matter. The workers employed by Restaurant Associates have sought higher wages for more than a year, and a December contract renegotiation appeared on its face to deliver better pay and benefits. But several workers said they were subsequently reclassified into new, lower-paying jobs, thus cheating them out of the raise they were expecting. … Ayers’s deputies then interviewed 86 of the cafeteria and restaurant employees. That inquiry determined that 35 employees were classified properly, said Laura Condeluci, a spokeswoman for Ayers; the other 51 were not. Restaurant Associates immediately reclassified 35 of the 51 misclassified workers and delivered back pay, leaving 16 in dispute, Ayers said. Half of those are being resolved through negotiations; the rest have been referred to the U.S. Department of Labor for resolution.

Senate Cooks Say Contractor Dodged Raises
Source: Rhonda Smith, Daily Labor Report, February 1, 2016 (Subscription Required)

The seven-year contract extension between Restaurant Associates and the AOC took effect Dec. 14. As a result, Restaurant Associates increased wage rates for about 80 percent of the 115 employees who work in Dirksen Senate Office Building eateries and in the Senate dining room. In the complaint, signed by attorney George W. Faraday, legal and policy director for Good Jobs Nation, the group said the minimum wage rates to which Compass Group employees at the Senate are legally entitled are established by the federal Service Contract Act for each occupational category. The letter notes that the new wage rates resulted in substantial wage increases for Compass workers classified in the lowest-paid SCA occupational categories, including cashiers, dishwashers and food-service workers. But the federal contractor downgraded various cooks to food-service worker positions, it added, which reduced their hourly wage rate. …

Senate Food Workers Allege ‘Raise Theft’
Source: Bridget Bowman, Roll Call, January 29, 2016

According to the complaint, congressional staff members were told at a Dec. 14 briefing that minimum wages for Level 1 cooks would be raised by $3.65, to $17.45 an hour, and Level 2 cooks would would receive a $5.70 increase to $19.50 an hour. But the complaint alleges several cooks were reclassified as a lower-tier “food service worker,” meaning their wages did not increase as expected. Under the new contract, food service workers’  minimum wage increased to $13.80 per hour. A labor organizer said so far they know of roughly a dozen workers who have had their classification downgraded, even though they still perform the duties of a cook.
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PA Auditor General calls Charter School Law faulty

Source: Carolyn Donaldson, Central Pa.com, August 25, 2016

Pennsylvania’s Auditor General says his latest charter school audit shows a faulty law that may favor charters over school districts.   Eugene DePasquale says of the $1 billion paid to charters over the last 5 years, the PA Department of Education’s (PDE)  process for handling 857 appeals is what’s at issue.   DePasquale says current law allows charter schools to get paid directly from the education department when a public school district refuses to pay and files an appeal. … DePasquale is calling for a new way to fund charter schools with recommendations to improve accountability, effectiveness and transparency for both charter and public school districts. …

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Pa. charter schools’ payment process comes under criticismSource: WKBN, August 25, 2016

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is criticizing the state department of education for its payment process to charter schools. At issue is the charter school payment appeals process. Right now, if a charter school doesn’t receive what it considers proper payment from a school district, it appeals to the department of education. The education department then takes the money from the district, and pays the charter school without the proper appeals process. .. His audit found one charter school was overpaid $3.6 million. That school has since closed.

Fraud and Financial Mismanagement in Pennsylvania’s Charter Schools
Source: Center for Popular Democracy, Integrity in Education and ACTION United, September 2014

From the press release:
Today, the Center for Popular Democracy, Integrity in Education and ACTION United released a report titled “Fraud and Financial Mismanagement in Pennsylvania’s Charter Schools” that exposes at least $30 million lost to waste, fraud, and abuse in Pennsylvania since the passage of that state’s charter school law in 1997 and was the subject of a Philadelphia Inquirer exclusive this morning. ACTION United will hold rallies at Governor Tom Corbett’s offices in Philadelphia at 11:00 a.m. today and in Pittsburgh tomorrow.

Charter school fraud has cost Pennsylvania at least $30 million
Source: Laura Clawson, Daily Kos Labor, October 2, 2014

Charter school fraud has continued on Gov. Tom Corbett’s watch, while public school funding has been slashed. Pennsylvania’s charter schools are rife with fraud and mismanagement, as anyone who reads local newspapers knows. But a new report from the Center for Popular Democracy, “Integrity in Education, and Action United” details just how big the problem is. Pennsylvania charter school enrollment and funding is growing rapidly and without adequate oversight, and according to the report, there’s been at least $30 million in fraud by charter school officials since 1997.
For instance:
– In 2012, the former CEO and founder of the New Media Technology Charter School in Philadelphia was sentenced to prison for stealing $522,000 in taxpayer money to prop up a restaurant, a health food store, and a private school. Media coverage of parent complaints of fiscal wrongdoing initially uncovered the fraud.
– Nicholas Tombetta, founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, has been indicted for diverting $8 million of school funds for houses, a Florida condominium, and an airplane. In 2005, a former business associate of Tombetta surfaced allegations of fraud, which led to the investigation.
– Dorothy June Brown, founder of Laboratory, Ad Prima, Planet Abacus, and Agora Cyber charter schools, will be retried this year for allegedly defrauding the schools of $6.5 million and conspiring to conceal the fraud from 2007 to 2011. Two administrators plead guilty and testified against Brown in her first trial. In 2009, the Pennsylvania Department of Education conducted an audit of Agora after receiving complaints from parents of Agora students….

Corrrections Corporation of America fights to seal documents about strip searches

Source: Travis Loller, Associated Press, August 25, 2016

Private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America is trying to seal from public view documents in a lawsuit that claim female visitors to a Tennessee prison were forced to undergo strip searches to prove they were menstruating. Three women have accused the company of violating their rights by forcing them to expose their genitals to guards after they tried to bring sanitary pads or tampons into South Central Correctional Facility, about 85 miles southwest of Nashville. One woman said her three children had to witness the search. … The Nashville-based company said the plaintiffs, who have been allowed to proceed anonymously, are trying to “inflame the public” and expose confidential prison information. The controversy began last month after the plaintiffs publicly filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking a judge to rule on some issues where the facts are not in dispute. Two supporting documents were also filed publicly but the exhibits were filed under seal, with plaintiffs asking the judge to let them file a redacted public copy in ten days. …

This quote from America’s largest private prison company shows how much the industry fears criminal justice reform

Source: Michelle Mark, Business Insider, August 25, 2016

This quote, from a 2005 annual CCA report found in the Securities and Exchange Commission archives, reemerged in a New Yorker article on Wednesday. The quote appears to validate claims regarding the private prison industry’s concern with reform (emphasis ours):

“Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors we cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions and acceptance of privatization. “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any change with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. “Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.”

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The largest chapter of the Texas prison guard union supports closing private prisonsSource: Casey Tolan, Fusion, August 25, 2016

The Texas prison system should close all its private prisons and give more nonviolent inmates parole and out-of-prison supervision, the president of the largest chapter of the state prison guard union said this week. Lance Lowry, the President of the Huntsville AFSCME Texas Correctional Employees chapter, who’s been a correctional officer in the state for more than 20 years, argued in a blog post yesterday that closing private prisons is necessary with the state prison system facing $250 million in budget cuts. There are currently 10,464 offenders in the state’s 15 private prisons and jails, or about 7% of the state’s total prison population, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. About half of Texas’ prison population was convicted of nonviolent crimes. Lowry, who represents 1,500 guards, said the state should shift low-level, nonviolent inmates to parole, probation, or electronic monitoring where they live at home. … The union’s advocacy for reducing incarceration comes amid wider scrutiny of private prisons. The federal Department of Justice announced last week that it would phase out the private prisons it had contracted, a decision that does not affect state private prisons. Private prison guards in Texas have a 90% staff turnover rate, compared to a 24% turnover rate among public prison guards, a 2008 State Senate report found. Public officers are older and more experienced, Lowry said. …

The Tricky Issue of Private Prisons
Source: Charles Chieppo, Governing, August 25, 2016

The reality is that most of the nation’s 2.2 million prisoners serve their sentences not in the federal system but in state and local prisons and jails. And prisons operated by for-profit companies account for about 6 percent of state inmates, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Beyond prisons, there are a number of reasons why privatization can be an appealing option for state and local governments. The pay for success approach can shift risk away from taxpayers by conditioning a contractor’s payment on the achievement of various metrics. …

Will America Finally Stop Privatizing Everything?
Source: David Dayen, New Republic, August 24, 2016

Thirteen contracts may seem like too small a disruption to threaten the entire private corrections industry and its $629 million in annual profits. But DOJ’s repudiation has already spurred demands to close other privatized facilities. And the logic of the decision underscores the core truism of privatization, one that citizens are increasingly finding unconscionable: The only way to manage these public operations and skim a profit off the top is to do it deficiently. … It’s not hard to figure out why this happens. Private companies win contracts to manage federal prisons by undercutting the Bureau of Prisons’ operational costs. Unlike the government, private prison companies must also take their profit margins out of their budgets. The only way to make that work is to massively drop labor costs, corresponding to a severe degradation of the quality of prison management. The examples of this are legion. Wages for private prisons are over 20 percent lower than their public counterparts, and the penitentiaries are routinely short-staffed. Equipment requisitions are insufficient. Maintenance is routinely deferred. In one CCA prison in Idaho, corrections officers let the gangs help them run the facility. That reflects the problem with privatization as a whole. Private companies must carry out a government function—be it water, parking meters, mass transit, or K-12 schools—at a lower cost than the government can provide it, while taking their profit off the top. Time and again, the results reveal that to be impossible, at least if you want to provide the same quality of service. Yet we keep privatizing. …
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Private Immigrant Detention Firm Gave $45K to Trump Fundraising Group

Source: Dean DeChairo, Roll Call, August 25, 2016

The political arm of one of the country’s leading operators of federally contracted immigrant detention facilities donated $45,000 last month to a joint fundraising committee supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, according to a recent Federal Election Commission filing. The political action committee representing The GEO Group, Inc., made the donation on July 27 to the Trump Victory fund, a joint committee also supporting the Republican National Committee and 11 state parties. Donors to GEO’s PAC are almost entirely employees of the Boca Raton, Florida-based company. … The donation came weeks before the Justice Department said it would phase out its practice of hiring private prison companies — the GEO Group among them — to operate 13 correctional facilities. The group’s stock price plunged following the announcement even though ICE, the group’s biggest customer, indicated it would continue its private detention contracts. …

Should Alaska Psychiatric Institute be privatized?

Source: Annie Zak, Alaska Dispatch News, August 26, 2016

Members of the mental health community and general public had a chance on Thursday to voice concerns and ask questions about the possibility of the state-run Alaska Psychiatric Institute becoming a private entity. A Boston-based company called Public Consulting Group Inc., is conducting a feasibility study to identify and analyze potential options for how to best manage API. … The Legislature passed a broad health care bill this year that mandates the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, in partnership with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, look at whether a private contractor for API works for the state. The feasibility study will examine several options for what to do with the facility, including keeping it under state ownership and contracting out for some operations; forming a public corporation to operate API; keep it under state ownership but look for new sources of revenue; and contracting with a nonprofit or for-profit third party to take over management and operations. … A private operator of API would be subject to a state oversight committee, according to the DHSS. … The plan is to have the API feasibility study ready for the Legislature to review in January. …

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Psychiatric hospital privatization to be discussed
Source: The News Miner, August 22, 2016

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority are hosting a roundtable discussions about privatizing the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Alaska’s only public psychiatric hospital. A study about privatizing the hospital is a mandate of Senate Bill 74, signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker earlier this year. The Public Consulting Group, Inc., won the contract for the feasibility study on June 11 to identify and analyze potential options for privatizing the hospital. …

Alaska selects winning bids for privatization studies
Source: Zack Hale, State of Reform, July 19, 2016

Alaska’s sweeping Medicaid reform bill, signed into law last month by Gov. Bill Walker, included provisions that require the state to hire outside contractors to perform feasibility studies for privatizing some parts of the state’s health care system. Specifically, the law mandates an analysis of the privatization of certain pharmacy services, juvenile facilities, and the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. So far the state has received two winning bids from firms that will perform feasibility analyses for the privatization of juvenile facilities and the state’s only public psychiatric hospital. … Carter Goble Associates, LLC, (CGA) submitted the winning bid to examine the feasibility of privatizing the programs offered in the Department of Juvenile Justice’s short-term secure detention facilities for youthful offenders. CGA’s winning proposal can be read here. … Public Consulting Group, Inc. (PCG) submitted the winning bid to conduct a feasibility analysis for privatizing certain aspects of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, which the proposal notes “serves as the sole safety net for the entire state.” PCG’s winning proposal can be read here. …

Alaska looks into privatizing some health and juvenile justice services
Source: Annie Zak, Alaska Dispatch News, May 27, 2016

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Wednesday put out requests for proposals for studies that would examine privatization of services at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, four Division of Juvenile Justice facilities across the state, and the pharmacy program at Alaska Pioneer Homes. … For API, some of the options include contracting a for-profit or nonprofit entity to take over management and operations; forming a public corporation to operate the hospital; keep it under state ownership and look for new revenue streams; or keep it under state ownership and contract out for certain services. … The state is also looking at potential options to privatize four short-term juvenile detention facilities in Nome, Ketchikan, Kenai and Palmer. The state is asking whoever performs the feasibility study also analyze the possibility of converting one or more of the facilities to offer nonsecure residential mental health and/or substance abuse treatment services. … Alaska Pioneer Homes, which provide assisted living care and pharmaceutical services to people 65 and older, is a state-run program that is “serving a greater proportion of high acuity residents than in the past, as prospective residents have been staying in their own homes as long as possible,” the RFP said. … The state wants an outside contractor to look at the costs and income of the current pharmacy program, as well as the needs of the program (like pharmacist consultations, or managing medication), to find out what the best option is to privatize it.

Kansans affected by privatization of Medicare eager to find forum, listening ears

Source: Tim Carpenter, Hutchinson News, August 25, 2016

Bronaugh said her son’s nursing-care hours were cut 40 percent at about the same time she raised questions about Sunflower’s noncompliance with contractual obligations. She shared documents showing Sunflower staff claimed she lied about her son’s disability to secure help he wasn’t eligible to receive. Bronaugh said the false allegations were an attempt to silence her and get her to drop an appeal of the nursing time. … Her feedback would have been the type likely to surface this week during a five-city listening tour that was to have provided Brownback officials insight into the governor’s 4 percent budget cut to some Medicaid providers on July 1. The $38 million was reallocated in an attempt to balance the state’s budget. Forums in Topeka, Overland Park, Wichita, Pittsburg and Dodge City were canceled to limit public disclosure of how Kansans viewed KanCare. The $3 billion system serves about 420,000 disabled, poor and elderly Kansas residents. Officials of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, as well as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, acknowledged growing pains with KanCare, but told state lawmakers the collaboration with private industry ought to be viewed as a success. Bipartisan criticism of the Medicaid cut did lead Brownback to recommend restoration of funding through adoption of a special tax on hospitals. …

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Kansas Providers Bristle, Brace for Medicaid Cuts
Source: John Commins, Health Leaders News, June 1, 2016

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s $56 million cut to the privatized KanCare Medicaid program is facing blowback from healthcare providers. In a media release detailing the cuts, Brownback said KanCare’s 4% reductions to providers, which take effect on July 1, would exempt home- and community-based services and almost 100 hospitals defined as rural, densely settled rural, frontier and critical access hospitals. … In a sharply worded open letter last week, however, Kansas Hospital Association President and CEO Tom Bell threw the baloney flag and accused the governor of attempting to obfuscate the scope of the cuts, which were part of more than $80 million in reductions to the overall state budget. … More than 30 of the state’s 107 rural hospitals are in danger of closing, and Bell said the ongoing effect of the KanCare cuts has become “obvious.” … Kansas remains one of 19 holdout states that reject Medicaid expansion and the money that comes with it under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, Kansas has lost an estimated $1.2 billion in federal matching funds. Brownback privatized KanCare in 2013 with assurances that the leaner and more efficient program would improve access to care. So far, those promises have not materialized. Providers and patient advocates hate it, and commercial payers aren’t happy with it either. The Witchita Eagle reported last week that KanCare’s health plans, Sunflower, UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup, reported losing $52 million in Kansas in 2014.

KanCare up for renewal despite performance shortfalls
Source: Gabriella Dunn, Wichita Eagle, May 26, 2016

The state will negotiate new contracts for its privatized Medicaid system that some describe as inefficient and ineffective. The contracts will take effect in 2018. … Sunflower, UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup currently provide Medicaid plans in Kansas. It’s unclear if other insurance companies would be willing to offer plans in Kansas’ privatized system. The three companies reported losing $52 million in Kansas in 2014. To compound financial issues, Gov. Sam Brownback cut Medicaid reimbursements to providers by 4 percent to help fill the state’s budget hole. The cuts will go into effect in July but will exempt critical access hospitals in rural areas along with nursing homes and home- and community-based disability services. …

KanCare companies up for renewal; state to hold meetings
Source: Gabriella Dunn, The Wichita Eagle, May 12, 2016

The three privatized Medicaid companies in Kansas – Sunflower, UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup – are due for contract renewals, but have been criticized for not meeting previously promised expectations. Medicaid recipients have reported longer wait times and more reimbursement denials since the privatization. And an inspector general position, which serves as a watchdog over the program, has been vacant since January 2014. …

Gov. Sam Brownback says privatized Medicaid is working in Kansas, but some patients and hospitals don’t see it
Source: Steve Vockrodt, The Pitch, January 19, 2016

While health-care providers tell The Pitch that KanCare works relatively well for patients who don’t rely on it daily, it has led to some struggles for people who require more intensive care. Some health-care providers say KanCare requires a quantity of paperwork that’s cumbersome even by insurance-company standards. They add that the system has routinely denied legitimate claims, forcing delays as hospitals and clinics file appeals. All of which belies the state’s claim that a privately managed Medicaid would streamline the bureaucracy inherent in a state-run program. … With this statement, Brownback made clear once again that he wants the Legislature to stay the course with KanCare and reject Medicaid expansion, which is an Easter egg for states to consider as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Medicaid expansion is seen by its advocates as a way to provide more services to the most vulnerable in Kansas and, at least temporarily, give some relief to the financial millstone around the Kansas budget. …
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Parents say not to fear privatization of DDS services

Source: Mark Davis, WTNH, August 25, 2016

Many parents with disabled adult children say other parents should not fear privatization following the layoff of hundreds of state workers. These parents say their sons and daughters are doing well with the non-profit private providers through the state Department of Developmental Services. The Governor says using private providers more is a national trend and he’s right about that. Several parents we spoke with today say it’s working well for them. … The Governor’s office says after this latest round of layoffs at the end of the year and more people are transitioned to the private providers, the state should end up saving about $70 million. …

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Connecticut releases plan to privatize dozens of group homes
Source: Susan Haigh, Associated Press, August 16, 2016

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration released a plan Tuesday to privatize 40 group homes and other services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, a move the union representing hundreds of affected state employees warned will “decimate” the state of Connecticut’s ability to provide services to the disabled. … She said the plan, which is projected to save the agency nearly $70 million, continues to provide “cost-effective, community-based options” for individuals served by DDS. It calls for cutting 605 related staff positions, 113 of which have already been eliminated. While Murray acknowledged the transition will “create personal challenges” for many dedicated state employees, she said the state is requesting that private provider agencies give hiring preference when possible to those workers displaced by the privatization initiative. … Under the DDS budget plan, 40 state-run group homes will be converted into private group homes. It also includes the previously announced closures of the Ella T. Grasso Regional Center in Stratford and the Meriden Regional Center, congregate living facilities for people with severe developmental disabilities. There also are plans to privatize state-run day and in-home support services. …

Union: Privatizing group homes would ‘decimate’ services
Source: Susan Haigh, Associated Press, August 16, 2016

The union representing workers at dozens of state-run group homes facing privatization say the proposal will “decimate” the state of Connecticut’s ability to provide services for the disabled. SEIU 1199 New England spokeswoman Jen Schneider says the union is urging Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to “find a better way than balancing the budget on the backs of the disabled.” Morna Murray, Malloy’s commissioner at the Department of Developmental Services, submitted a plan Tuesday that turns over 40 group homes and other programs for people with intellectual disabilities to private, nonprofit agencies. It also eliminates 605 related staff positions, 113 of which have already been terminated. …

Report: For-Profit Companies Make Fewer Mistakes Managing Medicaid

Source: Joyce Russell, Iowa Public Radio, August 25, 2016

A federal report released last year shows in 2014, for-profit companies managing part of Iowa’s three billion dollar Medicaid program made far fewer faulty payments than the state-run portion of the program.   Governor Branstad says that shows fraud and abuse will go down, now that for-profit companies are in charge of most of Iowa’s Medicaid patients. The report issued last November by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services covered 2014 when about 10 percent of Iowa’s Medicaid program was run by for-profit companies. The report says their error rate was less than one per-cent. That compares to nearly 10 percent for the traditional fee for service program. … Governor Branstad predicts similar results now that the bulk of Iowa’s program is privatized.     “Managed care is an effective tool to combat improper payments,” the governor says in a statement. The report shows most improper payments involved billing for non-covered services or insufficient documentation. In 2014, that cost more than 300 million dollars. … On Monday afternoon state lawmakers will review data from the first three months of privatized Medicaid. …

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Editorial: Branstad remains clueless about Medicaid woes
Source: Des Moines Register, August 24, 2016

Last year, Gov. Terry Branstad’s spokesman told The Des Moines Register the governor believed Obamacare “is unaffordable, unsustainable and creates too much uncertainty for Iowans. The implementation of this law has been flawed from the very beginning.” Oh, the irony. Iowans currently are mired in the disaster of the Medicaid privatization plan Branstad foisted upon the state this spring. … In documents provided to the state, AmeriHealth Caritas reported it ran a $42.6 million deficit in the first six months of 2016, and Amerigroup reported it lost $66.7 million. It is hard to make sense of that. How can the companies be losing money when so many providers are not being paid? Did these established, experienced companies miscalculate the cost of such a huge undertaking before signing contracts with the state? Of course, the public can’t know, as the managed care organizations refuse to discuss the specifics of their financial reports with the media. … Welcome to privatized Medicaid, where it is apparently inappropriate for companies collecting millions of public dollars to administer a public program to give information to the public. …

… In Fiscal Year 2015, the state was administering Medicaid. According to the state’s own report, that year alone it collected $272 million through cost avoidance and recovery efforts and saved nearly $47 million identifying overpayments, coding errors, fraud and abuse. Coordinating home-based care contributed to a 19 percent reduction in emergency room visits and a 17 percent reduction in inpatient admissions to hospitals. And it paid health care provi

Branstad: Some Companies “Not Following” Medicaid Privatization Rules
Source: Joyce Russell, Iowa Public Radio, August 22, 2016

Gov. Terry Branstad confirmed on Monday that the for-profit companies now managing Iowa’s multi-billion dollar Medicaid program did not follow the rules in the first two months of operation. But the governor also says the state issued no warnings or fees, in spite of complaints of late payments to health care providers and delayed care to patients. A Freedom of Information request by the Associated Press revealed no sanctions for violations for April or May, despite these rule violations. Branstad says the Department of Human Services wants to work with the companies, not against them. … Lawmakers told the AP they were not informed of the plan to have a grace period before the companies would be fined for violations. A committee led by Iowa Senate democrats which is overseeing Medicaid privatization will receive a quarterly report ahead of its meeting next week. …

Agency overseeing Iowa’s transition to privatized Medicaid keeps quiet on waived sanctions
Source: Associated Press, August 22, 2016

The state agency overseeing Iowa’s transition to a privatized Medicaid program waived any possible sanctions against three insurance companies during the first two months of the new system but did not inform health advocates or lawmakers of that policy. The Iowa Department of Human Services issued no written warnings or corrective action plans in April or May to the insurance companies that now run the state’s Medicaid program, according to information obtained by the Associated Press through a public records request. Fees for any purported violations were also waived. … The decision to delay sanctions wasn’t shared outside the agency, and the news was a surprise to some health advocates and lawmakers monitoring Medicaid, which provides health care to roughly 560,000 poor and disabled Iowa residents and switched to a privatized system on April 1. The program is under scrutiny over reports of late payments to health providers and delayed care to patients. DHS has said those issues are not systemic. … No documentation exists to show that the department planned to delay sanctions or to formally issue them beginning in June. McCoy said data on possible infractions recorded during June isn’t yet available because it’s tied to information submitted by the insurance companies on Aug. 1. That data is still being analyzed. Information on infractions collected for July is due on Sept. 1. …

Editorial: Branstad’s legacy: Killing health care jobs
Source: Des Moines Register, August 20, 2016

For someone who talks big about job creation, Gov. Terry Branstad is doing a stellar job of jeopardizing the solvency of some Iowa employers. Four months after implementation of his plan to privatize Medicaid administration, the carnage is in full swing. Stories of small employers not being paid by managed care companies are being reported across the state. Cedar Rapids-based JVA Mobility is no longer selling medical equipment to nursing homes. Despite obtaining prior authorizations from the insurers to repair or provide wheelchairs to residents, the company is not being reimbursed for the cost. … Senior Resources in Muscatine, a nonprofit organization that helps older Iowans live independently, may soon need to take out more loans. It has no other way to make up for the loss of revenue after being stiffed by private insurers. During a meeting this month at the Baxter Community Center, Baxter Mayor Stephen Smith talked about a small health clinic that was forced to close in July because it wasn’t being paid quickly enough to meet expenses. … These are not isolated incidents. A Medicaid provider survey released in July by Iowa lawmakers gathered responses from more than 400 doctors, hospitals, clinics and nonprofit health providers. Nearly half of them indicated they will or are planning to reduce services, and more than 60 percent say privatization has reduced the quality of services they can provide. Almost all reported an increase in administrative costs. It takes manpower and time to hound insurers for payment, particularly when they don’t answer the phone or return messages, as some providers report. …
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Corporate sponsors at Yosemite? The case against privatizing national parks

Source: John Freemuth, William Lowry, The Coversation, August 25, 2016

But many reforms are possible without privatizing parks or transferring them to state control. First, NPS could pay greater heed to lessons learned by state parks. The agency has often been somewhat insular and unreceptive to different ideas. State park managers, consistent with the tradition of innovation in a federal system, have tried various approaches to problems that could be useful at the national level. As one example, California developed clear criteria for accepting corporate sponsorships in response to serious budgetary shortfalls a few years ago. The National Park Service currently is considering a similar policy, and weighing California’s approach could help NPS address concerns from park supporters. … Radical proposals for restructuring the NPS are not as popular as advocates may think. In a 2012 Hart Research survey, 88 percent of voters – including 81 percent of Republicans – stated that it was either quite or extremely important for the federal government to protect parks. In 2013 another Hart poll of western voters – who might be expected to favor the idea of restructuring parks – found that 65 percent supported permanent protection for wilderness, parks and open spaces. …

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Settlement talks collapse in Yosemite National Park trademark clash
Source: Michael Doyle, Miami Herald, August 22, 2016

Efforts to settle the dispute between the federal government and Yosemite National Park’s former concessions company over trademarks have stalled, foreshadowing a potentially costly and time-consuming court battle. The failure of mediation efforts between Justice Department attorneys and their DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite was laid out in a court filing last week in which the two sides resumed combative trial preparations. … Delaware North, Yosemite’s primary concessionaire from 1993 until a new firm took over the lucrative contract on March 1, is suing the federal government over the handling of the Yosemite-affiliated names for which the concession company obtained trademarks. The substantive differences include the validity, dollar value and future of the trademarks Delaware North secured for such locations as Wawona, Curry Village and the famed Ahwahnee hotel. The company’s still-secret appraisal pegs the value of the trademarks at $44 million, while the park service values the names at only $1.6 million. … The government also wants to allow the current Yosemite concessionaire, a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Aramark, to join the lawsuit as a third party. Delaware North opposes this move. Ultimately, the Justice Department argues, it could be the Aramark firm that’s liable for paying for any trademarks. …

5 HISTORIC YOSEMITE LOCATIONS HAVE NAMES CHANGED DUE TO TRADEMARK DEPUTE
Source: Sara Sandrik, ABC30, March 1, 2016

A new company is in charge of all concessions inside Yosemite and five iconic buildings have new names because of an ongoing trademark dispute. A major transition started just after midnight but many are still hoping the new names are only temporary. … The transition included 8,500 new uniform pieces featuring the Yosemite hospitality logo and different merchandise in the gift stores. But the most noticeable changes involved new names and new signs for five iconic buildings. At the Awahnee alone everything from shuttle stops to floor mats to this historic landmark monument has been covered up or replaced. … The park service also filed a petition on Friday with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark Delaware owns since the company is no longer associated with Yosemite as of Tuesday. But it’s unknown if and when the agency could make a decision.

National Park Advocates Appalled by Yosemite Name Changes
Source: Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic, January 15, 2016

A decision by the National Park Service to rename iconic commercial sites within Yosemite National Park in the midst of a contract dispute has left park advocates shocked and disappointed. The historic Ahwahnee hotel, Yosemite Lodge, Wawona Hotel, Curry Village, and Badger Pass ski area will be renamed by March 1, when the park changes over to a new concessioner. … The National Park Service is locked in a legal fight with DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., the concessionaire at the park that has operated its hotels, trail rides, bus service, and more since 1993. DNC—part of Buffalo-based Delaware North, which operates facilities in other parks and venues around the world—lost its lucrative contract. The new 15-year, $2 billion contract was granted to a subsidiary of Aramark instead. …