Author Archives: afscme

Civilians Are Cheaper Than Contractors for Most Defense Jobs, Internal Report Finds

Source: Eric Katz, Government Executive, December 18, 2018

…. Civil service workers are most likely to be less expensive than contractors performing the same work in the Washington, D.C. region and in the Southeastern United States, the report compiled by the Office of the Secretary of Defense found. More than 75 percent of comparisons in the Southeast the Pentagon ran between government and contract workers showed a higher cost for the private sector, and the capital region was not far behind. Government Executive obtained the never-before reported on document through a Freedom of Information Act request. …. In 10 broad job groups the Defense Department studied, contractors came in as the pricier option. That compared to just four in which civilians were more expensive. When divided by Defense component the breakdown was essentially split, though three organizations had 75 percent of comparisons higher for contractor costs and just one saw the reverse. Across the department, comparisons with a significant sample size ranged from a group of contractors costing 316 percent more than their civilian counterparts to a group of civilians costing 154 percent more than similarly functioning contractors. ….

Opinion: The cold hard facts about America’s private prison system

Source: Liberty Vittert, Fox News, December 19, 2018

….With the government paying private prison operators about $23,000 per year per inmate (keep in mind, the minimum wage is $15,000 per year), it’s a lucrative business. CoreCivic’s reported 2017 revenue was close to $1.8 billion, and a back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that with 80,000 beds supported by the government to the tune of $23,000 per inmate per year, it’s collecting about $1.8 billion annually from the government. Business is booming indeed – thanks to the American taxpayers.

To boot, with most private prison contracts, if the prison beds aren’t full, the government has to pay for them anyway….

… Not only are your tax dollars funding these private prison operators, but you might also be investing in them without even knowing it. As of 2016, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, BNP and U.S. Bancorp, all played a role in bankrolling private prison companies. And I can see why. Including the three main private prison companies – CoreCivic, The GEO Group and MTC – the industry rakes in about $5 billion in revenue a year….

….The entire argument for private prisons rests on cost-savings. Private prison companies claim they can do the work of the government for less money. But do they? The truth is, probably not. There is no evidence that they actually save taxpayers any money. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2016 that the cost-savings promised by private prisons have simply not materialized. Some research even indicates that private prisons often refuse to accept inmates that cost a lot to house (i.e. the violent offenders), making the statistics they report highly misleading….

The VA’s Private Care Program Gave Companies Billions and Vets Longer Waits

Source: Isaac Arnsdorf, ProPublica, and Jon Greenberg, ProPublica and PolitiFact, December 18, 2018

Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers. Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist. The winners have been two private companies hired to run the program, which began under the Obama administration and is poised to grow significantly under Trump. ProPublica and PolitiFact obtained VA data showing how much the agency has paid in medical claims and administrative fees for the Choice program. Since 2014, the two companies have been paid nearly $2 billion for overhead, including profit. That’s about 24 percent of the companies’ total program expenses — a rate that would exceed the federal cap that governs how much most insurance plans can spend on administration in the private sector.

Related:

Lawmakers Worry New VA Private Care Program Could Be a ‘Train Wreck’
Source: Eric Katz, Government Executive, December 19, 2018

Lawmakers from both parties cautioned the Veterans Affairs Department to tread carefully in enacting a law President Trump signed last year to give more veterans access to private sector health care, suggesting the current trajectory could sabotage the entire program. VA is actively seeking to address potential pitfalls through its negotiations with potential contractors that will make up the “community care network,” Secretary Robert Wilkie told a joint, bicameral congressional committee on Wednesday. Criticisms came from an array of sources, most of whom voted to approve the MISSION Act last year…..

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie owes veterans, Americans answers on secret Mar-a-Lago ‘council’
Source: Anne Harkavy and Will Fischer, Courier Express, Dec 19, 2018

When Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie testifies before a joint congressional hearing on VA efforts to modernize health care access and services for veterans, we urge him to do what this administration has refused to do to date and answer a question of critical concern: Is a shadow council of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf buddies still holding meetings and exerting unlawful influence over the makeup of VA leadership and policy decisions aimed at privatizing VA health care services?
We know that prior to his confirmation, then Acting Secretary Wilkie flew to the president’s private Florida golf estate to meet with the Mar-a-Lago “council” — Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach concierge doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and financial consultant Marc Sherman, all members of the president’s private club — and thanked the group for creating a “template” that set a new direction for the agency.

We also know that, despite having no government or U.S. military experience, these three men met more than two dozen times, behind closed doors, to use their prominent position of influence to try to steer VA projects. For example, the VA tasked them with reviewing a $10 billion contract for the largest health information technology project in American history. And at least one project they worked on was one in which a member of the trio may have had a personal interest…..

Privatizing the VA: Billions for contractors, longer waits for veterans
Source: ELIZABETH HOWE, ConnectingVets.com, DECEMBER 19, 2018 – 8:29 AM

In 2014, the government started referring more and more veterans to private health care in an effort to mitigate the backlogs and dysfunctions of the VA’s health care programs. ProPublica investigated what has happened in the four years since then — and it looks like it’s all bad for veterans.

Privatizing VA health care was meant to result in better, easier-to-access health care for veterans.  Former President Barak Obama and President Donald Trump supported this effort. Since 2014, 1.9 million veterans have received private health care through Veterans Choice.

However, consistent with patterns at the VA, the program was riddled with flaws. Average wait times for medical care were longer, veterans in Idaho were referred to doctors in New York, an appointment with a neurologist was made for a veteran in need of a urologist — the list goes on. Many of these flaws can be traced back to the program’s expedited launch…..

Trump NLRB May Strip Disabled Workers of Union Rights

Source: Mike Elk, Payday Report, December 12, 2018

…. For nearly a century, disabled workers have complained that they have been treated like second-class citizens when it comes to their rights as workers. Under the 14c exemption to the Fair Labor Standard Act, more than 400,000 disabled Americans, employed in so-called non-profit “sheltered training workshops” are exempt from minimum wage laws and other federal labor laws.

Now, a non-profit employer, Didilake,  that specializes in employing disabled workers, Didlake, is asking Trump’s National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) to strip some disabled workers of the right to unionize.

For more than three years, a group of two dozen disabled workers at the Army National Guard building has been attempting to organize with Laborers Local 572. The workers say that they are treated like second-class citizens compared to their non-disabled colleagues often performing the same jobs.

The disabled workers are paid as little as $12.66 an hour and forced to pay $170 a month for inadequate health insurance that often leaves workers with out-of-pocket deductibles sometimes ranging in the thousands of dollars. While non-disabled workers performing similar work at the Pentagon, who are union members of Laborers Local 572, make $15 an hour and receive health care at far cheaper rates…..

A New Report Says Oregon Woefully Underfunds Public Defense Services And Fails To Monitor Its Contractors

Source: Katie Shepherd, Willamette Week, December 13 2018

In a presentation at the state capitol this morning, experts on the right to legal counsel told lawmakers and criminal justice stakeholders that Oregon is failing to comply with the U.S. Constitution because it has significantly underfunded public defense services.

In U.S. courts, defendants are guaranteed the right to an adequate defense under the Sixth Amendment, but a study authored by the nonpartisan nonprofit found several shortcomings in Oregon’s public defense system.

David Carroll, the executive director of the Sixth Amendment Center, presented the report’s findings Thursday morning. Carroll said his team heard a repeated message from the public defenders they talked to: “We are being asked to do more and more with less and less.”

High case loads, low pay rates and a complex, bureaucratic method for assigning cases led the Sixth Amendment Center to conclude that Oregon’s public defense system is not passing constitutional muster.

The report, which was first obtained Wednesday by OPB, highlights a lack of oversight over contracts that outsource public defense services to private attorneys and nonprofit public defenders offices across Oregon. ….

Related:
Oregon’s Public Defense System ‘Is Not Constitutional’ Report Finds
Source: Conrad Wilson, OPB, December 12, 2018

State public defense systems are supposed to provide effective counsel for indigent clients — a requirement of the U.S. Constitution. But a draft report obtained by OPB concludes that Oregon’s system is so bureaucratic and structurally flawed that it can’t guarantee clients are getting the defense they’re owed. …. The Legislature authorized the money for the report, which cost $193,990. Carroll’s group got to work in March, studying nine counties in depth that ranged from Harney to Multnomah. The findings are bleak. The state lacks oversight of attorneys with whom it contracts to provide public defense services. And the way it pays attorneys encourages them to deal with cases as quickly as possible…..

For-profit prison companies back criminal justice reform. It could be good for business.

Source: Steve Contorno, Tampa Bay Times, December 13, 2018

A bipartisan push in Congress backed by President Donald Trump to slow America’s rising prison population has a puzzling supporter: A Boca Raton-based for-profit prison company. GEO Group, one of the country’s largest detention companies, is publicly urging the Senate not to adjourn without passing the FIRST STEP Act, a bill that seeks to shorten some federal drug sentences and reduce the likelihood inmates will end up back behind bars. GEO’s biggest competitor, CoreCivic, is backing the bill as well. On the surface, it’s a curious position for leaders of a $4.8 billion industry enriched by tough-on-crime policies that swept millions of Americans into lengthy sentences over the past three decades. But others see two companies well-positioned to profit if Congress goes through with this reform. …

Private Probation Services Council – Performance Audit

Source: State of Tennessee, Comptroller of the Treasury, Division of State Audit, December 2018

The Private Probation Services Council’s purpose is to ensure that uniform professional and contract standards are practiced and maintained by private corporations, enterprises, and entities engaged in rendering general misdemeanor probation supervision, counseling, and collection services to the courts.

We have audited the Private Probation Services Council for the period July 1, 2013, through October 31, 2018. Our audit scope included a review of internal controls and compliance with laws, regulations, policies, and procedures related to the council’s responsibilities in the following areas:
– council member appointments, meetings, and reserve balances;
– council oversight, including entity contract review and background screening;
– council conflict-of-interest disclosures; and
– initial licensure applications, annual license renewal applications, and quarterly fee collections…..

He’s Built an Empire, With Detained Migrant Children as the Bricks

Source: Kim Barker, Nicholas Kulish and Rebecca R. Ruiz, New York Times, December 2, 2018

The founder of Southwest Key made millions from housing migrant children. His nonprofit has stockpiled taxpayer dollars and possibly engaged in self-dealing with top executives. … Mr. Sanchez has built an empire on the back of a crisis. His organization, Southwest Key Programs, now houses more migrant children than any other in the nation. Casting himself as a social-justice warrior, he calls himself El Presidente, a title inscribed outside his office and on the government contracts that helped make him rich. Southwest Key has collected $1.7 billion in federal grants in the past decade, including $626 million in the past year alone. But as it has grown, tripling its revenue in three years, the organization has left a record of sloppy management and possible financial improprieties, according to dozens of interviews and an examination of documents. It has stockpiled tens of millions of taxpayer dollars with little government oversight and possibly engaged in self-dealing with top executives. …Southwest Key has created a web of for-profit companies — construction, maintenance, food services and even a florist — that has funneled money back to the charity through high management fees and helps it circumvent government limits on executive pay. …

Editorial: The Pentagon Doesn’t Know Where Its Money Goes

Source: Editorial Board, New York Times, December 1, 2018

After decades of ducking the legal requirement that it undergo a thorough financial audit, the Pentagon finally opened up its books to 1,200 outside accountants and analysts. The report was recently completed, and here’s the good news: The Army Corps of Engineers (most of it, anyway) and the Military Retirement Fund passed the audit. The bad news: The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and most other divisions failed, which means they were unable to show that they were properly keeping track of their finances and assets. … The Pentagon failed the audit largely because there are serious gaps in the financial controls that guide it, the world’s largest military organization. Basically, the auditors couldn’t account for where all the money went because of flaws in information technology systems. That laxity — and the prospect of tax dollars flowing to boondoggles — would be concerning at any time. But it is especially worrisome when the federal budget deficit has skyrocketed to $779 billion — and the military is insisting it needs more money. …

Read full report.

Audit: Privatized Medicaid is saving Iowa millions of dollars. Democrats aren’t convinced

Source: Tony Leys and Barbara Rodriguez, Des Moines Register, November 26, 2018

After two years of releasing see-sawing estimates, Iowa Medicaid leaders are correctly calculating how much the state is saving by hiring private companies to manage the state’s $5 billion Medicaid program, the state auditor concluded Monday. State Auditor Mary Mosiman said the May 2018 estimate of $141 million in annual savings was more accurate than earlier state estimates of $234 million and $47 million. Using the most recent estimation method with updated financial information, Mosiman’s office estimates the fiscal year 2018 savings at $126 million. The auditor chided the Iowa Department of Human Services for failing to have an accurate way to estimate the savings when the state made the shift to private Medicaid management in 2016.

Related:
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. …

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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