Author Archives: afscme

Iowa’s Medicaid privatization: Kim Reynolds says right track; Fred Hubbell says ‘disaster’

Source: William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel, Des Moines Register, September 4, 2018

Two months ahead of Election Day, Iowa’s gubernatorial candidates painted a vastly different portrait of the state’s Medicaid system Tuesday. In the morning, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds defended the state’s decision to shift administration of the program that serves 685,000 low-income or disabled Iowans to private management, telling reporters that initial problems have been addressed and the system is on the right track. In the afternoon, Democratic businessman Fred Hubbell held a roundtable with providers where he described a system in crisis and criticized Reynolds’ handling of the program. The results of privatizing the massive federal and state program in Iowa have become one of the issues that will influence — and may decide — this year’s governor’s race. …

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A private Medicaid company that pulled out of Iowa has yet to pay thousands of medical bills
Source: Jason Clayworth, Des Moines Register, August 30, 2018
 
A Medicaid company that terminated its Iowa contract almost a year ago has yet to pay as much as $14.6 million for medical care provided to disabled, poor and elderly Iowans, a Des Moines Register investigation shows.  AmeriHealth Caritas’ outstanding bills include nearly 6,000 individual charges totaling more than $1 million at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and $541,000 at Broadlawns Medical Center, public records obtained by the Register show.  Several private and nonprofit medical groups told the Register they have tens of thousands of dollars in outstanding bills that they say are hamstringing their operations and efforts to provide medical care. …

Iowa agrees to give Medicaid management firms 7.5% raise to continue running program
Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, August 24, 2018
 
Iowa has agreed to give 7.5 percent more state money to the two private companies managing its $5 billion Medicaid program, officials announced Friday.  The agreement will keep UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup in Iowa, but it will mean state leaders must come up with about $103 million more than last fiscal year.  The new agreements cover the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The increase in state spending is more than double the 3.3 percent increase the state agreed to for last fiscal year.  Overall, the new contracts will give the two companies raises of 8.4 percent in state and federal money, totaling $344 million. …

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Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto says PWSA at financial crossroads

Source: Bob Bauder, TribLive, September 4, 2018

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has two choices: squeeze more than $2 billion needed for replacing outdated and failing infrastructure from 80,000 ratepayers, or partner with a private company to defray some of those costs, Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday. Peduto is adamant about maintaining PWSA as a publicly owned system, but he’s open to suggestions from private enterprise on a partnership that would generate additional revenue. The mayor said he’s received more than a dozen offers from companies interested in providing the city with water, including Peoples Gas and Pennsylvania American Water. Peduto said Pennsylvania American, which provides water to the city’s South Hills residents, has offered to purchase the authority outright, but the company said it has not offered an official proposal. …

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From Pittsburgh to Flint, the Dire Consequences of Giving Private Companies Responsibility for Ailing Public Water Systems
Source: Sharon Lerner and Leana Hosea, The Intercept, May 20, 2018
 
The lead crises in Flint and Pittsburgh have many unfortunate parallels. Residents of both cities unknowingly drank water with high levels of the potent neurotoxin, which has long-term health consequences. The rise in lead levels was preceded in both cases by a miscalculation related to chemicals used to control corrosion in water pipes. And in both places, officials have faced criticism for their inaction and failure to alert the public. The two lead crises have another important thing in common: a private water company named Veolia. The world’s largest supplier of water services, Veolia had contracts with both Flint and Pittsburgh around the time that lead levels rose in their drinking water. And in both places, Veolia wound up in legal disputes over its role in the crises. …

Pittsburgh’s Water System Is Why We Shouldn’t Run America Like a Business
Source: Jordana Rosenfeld, The Nation, November 30, 2017

Pittsburgh, in an attempt to deal with entrenched infrastructure problems, turned to the private sector in 2012 when it partnered with the French management firm Veolia North America, the same water-management company that would fail to disclose Flint’s lead-contamination problem in 2015. … The organization lauded Veolia for identifying $2.3 million in new PWSA revenue and $3 million more in operating savings, a move incentivized by their contract that stipulated the company could keep 40 percent of every dollar it saved the city. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a glowing account of PWSA’s partnership with Veolia, despite reports that it laid off 23 employees, many of whom were longtime employees with critical institutional knowledge. … But this August, a consulting group hired to assess the organization’s current state announced in a public meeting that PWSA was “a failed organization atop a dangerous and crumbling structure” with “an aging system in demonstrably worse condition than any water utility of its size in the country.” Not only that, water tests showed that since the partnership began, Pittsburgh’s water had been tainted with dangerously high levels of lead. …

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The case against Chartwells

Source: CBS News, August 17, 2018

… Imagine the only meal a schoolchild ate came from a school’s kitchen dishing out spoiled and rotten food. It happens, Mills found out. … In 2010, he took a hefty paycut to take a job as director of food services for Washington, D.C.’s public schools, where he would oversee feeding some 50,000 students. … He took over a system where the food was supplied by Chartwells, a multibillion dollar company that managed the menus and made all the purchase agreements for the food. He was shocked by what he saw. … Mills found the food was poorly prepared, not healthy and, in some cases, unsanitary. … He took his concerns to Chartwells with no real change. Then the contract was up for renewal by the District, and Mills called for an audit. He maintained the school district was being overcharged millions. The school district removed Mills and his team from oversight of the auditors. Mills was told to back off. Three years after he was hired, he was fired. He then sought an attorney for wrongful termination – and as a whistleblower. …

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Auditor: DC Schools Should Stop Outsourcing Food Service
Source: Associated Press, October 8, 2016

A report from the District of Columbia auditor said the city’s school system should stop turning over food service to outside contractors. The report released Friday said outsourcing food service has not saved the city money as school officials promised and will continue to cost the system millions of dollars a year. In their response to the auditor’s report, school officials said they continue to oppose bringing food services back in-house. Former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson repeatedly argued that food service was not a “core competency” of the school system. …

Chartwells Era Ends As DCPS Selects New Food Providers – Following a whistleblower lawsuit last year
Source: Andrew Giambrone, Washington City Paper, May 23, 2016

The school-food provider at the heart of a whistleblower lawsuit in 2015 that revealed substandard food quality and fraud will not serve D.C. Public Schools students next academic year. DCPS announced in a statement on Friday that it has chosen DC Central Kitchen and SodexoMagic, with Revolution Foods as a subcontractor, to provide meals at more than 110 facilities. … The announcement follows a request for proposals DCPS posted in December, featuring a one year contract with four options years to renew. Still, which entities applied for the RFP won’t be publicly available until the contracts are approved because of procurement rules. Under the proposal, 12 schools in Ward 7 would be served by DC Central Kitchen, while the rest would be served by SodexoMagic and Revolution Foods. DC Central and Revolution served hundreds of thousands of meals last year. ….

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Review recommended of Kansas privatized child welfare model

Source: Associated Press, August 28, 2018

Kansas lawmakers are recommending a review of the state’s privatized child welfare model to decide whether it’s in the state’s best interest. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Child Welfare System Task Force received the request Monday from two working groups it created to examine the system of programs operated within the Kansas Department for Children and Families. … Some lawmakers suggest privatization makes it difficult for the state to properly oversee the child welfare system, which has been scrutinized in recent years because of children who died in custody. … The task force is expected to make final recommendations to the Legislature at the end of the year.

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Kansas Task Force Hears That Some Issues With Foster Care System Aren’t New
Source: Madeline Fox, KCUR, December 13, 2017
 
Descriptions of an underfunded, under-resourced foster care system short on child placement options sounded familiar to Kansas lawmakers and child welfare advocates at a task force meeting this week.  But the events described Tuesday actually played out 30 years earlier, when a 1989 class-action lawsuit — alleging that the state’s foster care system violated the rights of Kansas children — raised issues that eventually led to the current privatized system.  Rochelle Chronister, former secretary of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (now the Department for Children and Families), said she believes privatization of the foster care system in the late 1990s made sense although it was a tumultuous process. …

New DCF secretary dives into review of Kansas foster care programs
Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, December 12, 2017
 
On Tuesday, the new secretary at the Kansas Department for Children and Families promised a legislative task force studying weakness in the state’s foster care system a thorough top-to-bottom review of internal and contracting operations with an emphasis on improving public transparency. … Meier-Hummel, who was a member of the task force when hired as secretary, on Dec. 1 took over an agency denounced for its response to problems in the foster care system. DCF is responsible for programs tied to children, as well as welfare.  For years, questions have been posed about whether DCF could do more to prevent deaths of children in contact with the agency. Meier-Hummel said the agency would review each fatality in search of lessons useful in avoiding future tragedy. …

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Columbia Public Schools bus driver removed from route after kindergartner got off on wrong stop

Source: Emma Veidt, August 22, 2018

… Meela Walker said she thinks Student Transportation of America, which is contracted by the Columbia Public School District to provide transportation, was negligent and that the bus driver failed to follow company protocol. “The bus driver was horrible during the whole situation,” she said. “I felt like I wasn’t getting any cooperation from STA.” … Baumstark said Student Transportation of America, not the Columbia Public School District, hires, fires and disciplines bus drivers. According to a statement released by Student Transportation of America yesterday, the driver has been removed from the route. …

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Blue Ridge parents dissatisfied with school bus system
Source: Elise Brisco, KOMU 8, August 21, 2018

Samantha McCormick says she no longer trusts the school bus system to get her second grader where he’s supposed to be and when. Another Blue Ridge student was dropped off at the wrong stop Monday. …”We have had several incidents ourselves in the neighborhood where we actually had to request that the bus driver come and drop him off in front of the house because we kept missing him or they would not drop him of,” McCormick said. Columbia Public Schools contracts with a third party company, Student Transportation of America, to get students to and from school. McCormick said the company changes drivers often, which leads to confusion over where students should be dropped off. …

POGO Identifies Defense Contractors Recently Sanctioned for Human Trafficking Abuses

Source: Neil Gordon, Project on Government Oversight, August 21, 2018

POGO has identified two companies that were recently sanctioned by the government for violating U.S. restrictions on human trafficking. An official in the Pentagon’s watchdog told POGO that Tamimi Global Company and Texas Gulf Global General Trading & Contracting Company were the two of the companies referred to, although not by name, in a recent State Department report. The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2018 released in June reported: [The Department of Justice] and other federal law enforcement agencies continued to investigate allegations of debt bondage and excessive recruitment fees required of third-country nationals working on certain U.S. government contracts abroad, but no federal criminal prosecutions of employers or labor contractors resulted from these investigations in FY 2017. [The Department of Defense] took action against noncompliant employers or labor contractors from U.S. programs resulting in 22 suspensions, six debarments, one job termination, and one compliance agreement. …

40 cities in 10 years: Leaked presentation offers more details on new group’s goals to spread charter (and charter-like) schools

Source: Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat, August 21, 2018

The new organization aiming to spread a mix of charter schools, school autonomy, and unified enrollment across the country wants to reach 5 percent of low-income students in the U.S. within five years, according to a presentation obtained by Chalkbeat. The City Fund, whose formation was announced late last month, has already amassed over $200 million and a well-connected staff, making it poised to influence education policy in cities across the country. The full presentation, used a few months ago to pitch potential funders, offers the most detailed available blueprint of the group’s goals and strategies, which include expanding charter schools or charter-like alternatives. Known as the “portfolio model,” it’s a controversial approach that has faced skepticism from both critics and supporters of charter schools. The academic success of the approach remains hotly debated. …

Justice says he’s working on PEIA possibilities independently of Task Force

Source: Brad McElhinny, West Virginia Metro News, August 26, 2018
 
Gov. Jim Justice wants the PEIA Task Force, which has been meeting for a half-year now, to continue its work aimed at shoring up health insurance for state employees and retirees.  But Justice said in a Friday interview that he’s also working independently on possible changes to the Public Employees Insurance Agency.  He hinted that might have an element of privatization, the way the state dealt with workers compensation years ago, and also that he is looking toward long-term stabilization of the program that he believes is possible because of West Virginia’s improved economic outlook. …

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WV officials unsure PEIA would benefit from privatization
Source: Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette-Mail, September 19, 2017
 
Privatization of West Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation insurance was successful, particularly in lowering employer premiums and increasing competition, Brickstreet Insurance CEO Greg Burton told legislators Tuesday.  Whether those successes would apply to privatization of the state Public Employees Insurance Agency health insurance remains to be seen, he said.  “I’m not sure all the successes that happened with Workers’ Comp privatization, particularly with the decreases in rates…would translate over to PEIA,” he told a legislative interim committee studying PEIA. … According to a report on state employee health benefits published by the National Conference of State Legislatures on April 2, only two states exclusively use private insurers to provide health insurance to public employees, Idaho and North Dakota. According to the NCSL, 29 states, including West Virginia, have fully self-funded health insurance plans, while the remaining 19 states provide employees with coverage options, including self-funded plans. …

Keeping Baltimore’s Water in Public Hands

Source: Kevin Zapf Hanes, AFSCME Now, August 23, 2018 

Water profiteers have long sought to call Baltimore home. AFSCME Council 67 members joined with community allies years ago to educate city residents about the dangers of private water companies taking over the city’s water utilities.  At the continued urging of community and workers, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution this month barring the sale of the city’s water utility. Mayor Catherine Pugh signed the measure soon thereafter. The measure will now be placed on the November ballot for voter approval. It’s expected to pass. … AFSCME Council 67 President and International Vice President Glenard Middleton testified before the city council.  He said, “Poor people and communities of color would be disproportionately harmed by water privatization. The water rate hikes needed to generate corporate profit would lead to water shutoffs in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. And water corporations would likely invest more resources in wealthier areas of the city because these companies have a track record of cherry-picking projects to generate the highest returns for their investors, instead of keeping the public’s best interest at heart.” …

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Baltimore Set To Ban Privatization of Water System
Source: Ayana Byrd, Color Lines, August 8, 2018
 
Legislators in Baltimore have taken historic steps to ban water privatization in the city—a move that will benefit lower-income earning communities in the majority Black city.  On Monday (August 6), members of the Baltimore City Council approved a resolution that will ban water privatization via a nearly unanimous vote. … Baltimore, a city of approximately 611,000 people, is 63 percent Black. Twenty-one percent of its residents live below the federal poverty line, according to the latest Census information. Glen Middleton, the executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Maryland Council 67, said, “Not only will water privatization increase water rates across the city, but it will also deprive low-income communities and communities of color access to clean and safe water…. Keep water privatization away from our communities.” …

Responding to activists, Mayor Pugh, DPW director assure they don’t want to privatize Baltimore’s water system
Source: Ethan McLeod, Baltimore Fishbowl, June 13, 2018
 
Fear not, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Baltimore City Department of Public Works Director Rudy Chow say: Baltimore’s water system will remain in public control, despite any charter amendments that activists worry could open up a pathway for privatization.   In a joint statement issued Wednesday morning, Pugh and Chow assured they’re not looking to let companies like Suez Environment in on managing Baltimore’s drinking water supply or any of its resources.  “Baltimore City’s drinking water system is a jewel that must be maintained in the public trust,” Pugh and Chow said. “From the reservoirs in Baltimore and Carroll counties, to our filtration plants in the Ashburton and Montebello communities, we share the commitment of prior generations of civic leaders to keep this life-sustaining resource in public hands.” …

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Auditors confirm company did not comply with medical services contract at Milwaukee County Jail, House of Correction

Source: Don Behm, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 20, 2018

he private company responsible for medical services at the Milwaukee County Jail and House of Correction failed to meet contract staffing requirements during the time that several people died while in custody at the jail, county auditors said Monday in a report.  Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., the Miami-based company hired by the county, provided an average of 89% of its staffing requirements from November 2015 to August 2017, according to county audit director Jennifer Folliard. The company only achieved that level of service by relying on employees brought in from outside employment agencies, the report says. Staffing levels for several key jobs fell below the overall average, with only 83% of registered nurse hours and 85% of mental health staff hours covered, according to the report. … In February, Armor was charged in Milwaukee County Circuit Court with falsifying health care records of inmates at the jail, including Terrill Thomas, who died of dehydration while in custody in April 2016. Armor employees allegedly “engaged in a pattern and practice of intentionally falsifying entries in inmate patient health care records,” a criminal complaint says. …

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Sheriff ‘aggressively worked’ to correct problems found in review of Milwaukee County Jail operations
Source: Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 5, 2018

An outside review of the Milwaukee County Jail found outdated policies, lengthy waits for inmate medical screenings, widespread use of overtime because of staff shortages and other problems. … Acting Sheriff Richard Schmidt asked the National Institute of Corrections to review all operations at the jail in the wake of seven custody deaths over two years. One of those deaths — that of Terrill Thomas who died of dehydration in April 2016 — led to criminal charges being filed against three jail staffers and Armor Correctional Health Services, the private medical contractor at the jail. …

Company Hired to Provide Health Care for Milwaukee Inmates Charged With Falsifying Records
Source: Marti Mikkelson, WVUM, February 21, 2018

The company that cares for inmates at the Milwaukee County Jail is facing criminal charges. Employees allegedly lied about checking on a man who died of dehydration, after water to his cell was shut off. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office on Wednesday charged Armor Correctional Health Care Services with seven misdemeanor counts of intentionally falsifying health records. The company is the latest defendant to face charges in the death of Terrill Thomas,who spent a week without water in his cell as punishment in 2016. …

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