Category Archives: Health.Care

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. …

Disabled Iowans could be exempted from private Medicaid management

Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, September 13, 2017
 
Iowa might resume direct oversight of care for people with serious disabilities instead of having private Medicaid-management companies continue doing it, the state’s human-services director said Wednesday.  Many of the most serious complaints about Iowa’s privatized Medicaid system have come from disabled Iowans and their families. Numerous families have reported having their services cut and their hassles multiplied by the management companies. Their plight has sparked a federal lawsuit against the state.  “We are examining patients that may not be the right mix” for managed care-companies to oversee, Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven told an advisory council for his agency Wednesday. …

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As complaints pile up, lawmakers overseeing Medicaid privatization haven’t met this year
Source: Jason Clayworth, Des Moines Register, August 20, 2017

A legislative committee tasked with oversight of the for-profit companies that manage Iowa’s Medicaid system hasn’t met this year, undercutting the state’s contention that the companies are being held accountable, critics say. The Legislature’s Health Policy Oversight Committee was tasked in 2015 with evaluating the state’s privatization of its Medicaid system, specifically to ensure the effective administration of the program, which provides health care to 568,000 poor or elderly Iowans. But despite a record number of complaints and a federal lawsuit alleging Medicaid services are being illegally or improperly cut, the 10-member legislative committee has yet to convene in 2017. …

Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on the table in closed-door Medicaid haggling
Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, July 3, 2017

The three companies running Iowa’s $4 billion Medicaid program contend they need millions more dollars from taxpayers, starting this month — but there’s been no public hint of how much more money the state will have to fork over. Iowa hired the companies last year to manage the state’s Medicaid program, which covers health care for about 600,000 poor or disabled residents. The shift has been intensely controversial, with critics complaining it has led to tangles of red tape for care providers and cuts in services for Medicaid recipients. Supporters, including Gov. Kim Reynolds, say the new system is saving money for the state by leading to more efficient, effective care. …

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Does Outsourcing Some State Jobs Save TN Taxpayers Money?

Source: Local Memphis, August 31, 2017
 
Many Tennessee lawmakers hope to see if outsourcing some state jobs actually saves taxpayers money. It’s been a controversial topic since Governor Bill Haslam began implementing the idea a few years ago.  Questions about outsourcing are always the same. Does it save money and is there accountability?  “There’s… people concerned about state jobs all over Tennessee,” said one protester.  Many state lawmakers have heard and seen the protests about the ongoing outsourcing of state jobs. That’s why a majority of legislators from both parties signed a letter of concern earlier this year to Governor Haslam. The Governor has defended outsourcing state jobs in some areas, especially on state college campuses. …

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UT campus workers protest Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: WBIR, August 28, 2017

University of Tennessee Knoxville staff, faculty and students joined local business leaders, state representatives and faith leaders in a demonstration Monday to call on university officials to “opt-out” of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan. The demonstration was organized by United Campus Workers. Last week, a bill to introduce oversight in outsourcing was heard in summer study in the General Assembly. If the university were to “opt-in”, United Campus Workers believe as many as 10,000 facilities jobs, including hundreds in Knoxville, would be outsourced. Those who oppose the plan fear it will result in job loss, loss of oversight and accountability, reduced services and negative consequences for local businesses which provide services to campuses. …

Outsourcing is not working and it hurts working Tennesseans
Source: Dwayne Thompson, Tennessean, August 10, 2017
 
Since August 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has pushed a radical experiment in outsourcing that would turn thousands of state facilities workers jobs, millions of square feet of Tennesseans’ real estate, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the multinational giant JLL.   There has been widespread opposition to the outsourcing plan. Facilities services workers, faculty, and staff have significant concerns that outsourcing will compromise the quality of services on which effective teaching, research and service rely.  Students have spoken up about fears for safety if a revolving workforce replaces the workers they know and trust. …

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KDADS Secretary makes pitch to privatize Osawatomie

Source: Melissa Brunner, WIBW, August 30, 2017
 
The Kansas Dept. for Aging and Disability services is making the case to privatize the Osawatomie State Hospital.   Secretary Tim Keck presented information Wednesday to state lawmakers and community leaders. Over nearly two hours, Keck detailed the history Osawatomie, the issues it has experienced in recent years and steps the state has taken to address the problems.  Looking to the future, Keck detailed a bid from Correct Care Recovery Solutions to rebuild and run Osawatomie, which lost federal certification in 2015. Correct Care runs mental health facilities around the country. …

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State officials hope to replace, privatize Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Peter Hancock, Lawrence Journal-World, August 30, 2017

State officials in Kansas began laying out their case Wednesday for why they think the state should replace the aging and troubled Osawatomie State Hospital with a new facility and hand over management of the facility to a for-profit, out-of-state corporation. Tim Keck, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which manages the psychiatric hospital, said the hospital has become too challenging for the state to manage, and it is time for the state to make a decision. …

Kansas Lawmaker Leary Of Plans To Privatize Osawatomie
Source: Celia Llopis-Jepsen, KMUW, August 23, 2017

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has unveiled a proposal to build a new mental hospital at Osawatomie, which a Tennessee company would run. But Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward says the agency should be exploring in-house options. “This administration has a terrible history of privatization. Whether it be child support collection, DCF, KanCare,” Ward says. KDADS Secretary Tim Keck says the private operator would bring expertise and the ability to recruit mental health professionals. But, he says, his department is keeping an open mind. …

Kansas agency may privatize state psychiatric hospital working to regain federal funds
Source: Allison Kite, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 16, 2017
 
The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is considering privatization for a troubled state psychiatric hospital that has now passed an initial step toward regaining some federal funding. KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said the department was considering a bid from Correct Care Recovery Solutions, which runs other mental health facilities across the country, to rebuild and privately run Osawatomie State Hospital.  The department also announced in a press release Wednesday that the acute care unit at the state psychiatric hospital had passed an initial survey required to get that part of the hospital re-certified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. …

Kansas Official To Outline Privatization Plan For Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Jim McLean, KCUR, August 14, 2017
 
One way or another, Tim Keck wants to replace the state’s aging Osawatomie State Hospital with a new mental health treatment facility.  Though he is meeting with some resistance, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is pushing lawmakers to consider privatizing the state-run psychiatric hospital, which in recent years has been beset by operational problems.  On Tuesday Keck will outline a privatization plan submitted by a Tennessee-based company to stakeholders and legislators during a 1 p.m. meeting at hospital’s administration building. …

Osawatomie Contract Bidder Has History Of Safety Issues At Its Florida Psychiatric Facilities
Source: Meg Wingerter, KMUW, February 23, 2017

Correct Care Solutions, a Tennessee-based company that is the sole bidder for a contract to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, has a history of safety problems at the state psychiatric facilities it runs in Florida. Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) declined to provide details this week on Correct Care’s bid to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, one of two state facilities for people deemed a danger to themselves or others. The department is evaluating the proposal and hasn’t given a timeline for whether or when it would bring it before the Legislature. Under a law they approved last year, lawmakers must approve the contract before KDADS can move forward. …

‘Tough’ Budget: New Funding Unlikely For Kan. Mental Health System
Source: Meg Wingerter, Hays Post, February 12, 2017

A key Kansas lawmaker says the state doesn’t have the money to fix problems in its mental health system, which a new report says are getting steadily worse. The report, the second from a task force created in 2015 to advise the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, says the system has continued to deteriorate. The task force’s first report, issued about 18 months ago, concluded the system was “stretched beyond its ability to provide the right care at the right time in the right place.” Rep. Brenda Landwehr, who chairs the House Social Services Budget Committee, agreed there are substantial gaps in the system but said lawmakers are virtually powerless to respond because of the depth of the state’s budget problems. … Given the amount of projected red ink, Landwehr said the state can’t afford to implement task force recommendations that would require significant new spending. Specifically, she said, it can’t afford to add psychiatric residential services for people covered by KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. … In the updated report, task force members also signaled their opposition to privatizing Osawatomie State Hospital, citing concerns about the quality of care delivered by for-profit contractors in other states. … More than 60 [House members] have signed on to a bill that would prohibit the privatization of either of the state’s mental health hospitals unless authorized by the Legislature. …

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Privatization considered at Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Charity Keitel, Miami County Republic, November 23, 2016

After more than a year of improvements, renovations and the pursuit of recertification, the Osawatomie State Hospital’s (OSH) future continues to remain in a state of flux. Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) Interim Secretary Tim Keck recently announced that a request for proposal (RFP) for privatization of the operation of OSH has been put into effect. The RFP entails several specifications and could allow for a partial privatization of the hospital or a full bid for the entire operation. The RFP states that the state may award one contract to assume responsibility for providing at least 206 inpatient beds within the state of Kansas, but a minimum of only 94 inpatient beds would be required to be maintained at the current Osawatomie State Hospital campus. The remaining beds could be maintained at the OSH campus or at another KDADS-approved facility within the state hospital’s 45-county catchment area. Despite the RFP, Keck said it in no way means that privatization is a certainty in OSH’s future. He said he believes it is worthwhile to consider all the options even those that may not come to fruition. The RFP can be rescinded at any time for any reason at the state’s discretion. … Jones went on to say that he does not agree with an RFP that plans to move beds away from OSH and not increase functions there. He said the RFP seems to allow for a move of beds away from the state hospital as an option, which he does not favor. … It’s his belief that the legislators need to push back and make sure the RFP does not make it through the legislature. …

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Massena town, hospital make non-disclosure deal, supervisor says brings asset transfer a step closer

Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, August 31, 2017 
Following a closed-door session on Wednesday, the Massena Town Council ratified a non-disclosure agreement that the town supervisor brings them a bit closer to a Massena Memorial Hospital asset transfer deal.  “The board authorized me to sign a non-disclosure agreement that basically says we’re not going to disclose the information we’re negotiating … details of the transfer. The hospital’s attorney and our attorney worked back and forth over the last few weeks to finalize the terms of our agreement,” Town Supervisor Joe Gray said.  MMH is in the process of becoming a private, non-profit entity. The Town of Massena now owns them.  Part of the transition process is negotiating how the town will be compensated for losing the MMH asset. …

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Massena Memorial Hospital CEO says they will ask workers comp carrier to help them reduce number of incidents leading to claims
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, July 25, 2017

Massena Memorial Hospital’s CEO says he will call on their workers compensation carrier to help them reduce workplace incidents leading to claims, after the county announced plans to move to a risk-based funding system for the insurance plan. “We are going to be asking for the workers compensation carrier to help us reduce our incidents. If we’re going to pay a premium we’re going to get service, not somebody who processes claims and says ‘you’re doing a bad job,’” MMH CEO Robert Wolleben said at the Monday Board of Managers meeting. County legislators recently voted to modify the Workers’ Compensation insurance contribution formula to a risk-and-use-based system, resulting in massive savings for many municipalities, but a 267 percent increase for the Town of Massena.

Massena Memorial CEO won’t give regular privatization updates to town board as transfer negotiations continue
Source: Andy Gardner, North Country Now, July 20, 2017
 
The Massena Memorial Hospital CEO will no longer give regular updates on the hospital’s privatization process at monthly Town Council meetings.  The town board and the MMH board are negotiating an asset transfer deal to determine how the town will be compensated for its asset once MMH privatizes. … In addition to the asset transfer, the hospital is waiting for their 501c3 application from the IRS, and trying to pick an affiliate.  Wolleben earlier this year at a town board meeting said he hoped at the MMH meeting the following week, but it didn’t happen. That was in February. The only updates he has given in public is they are looking at two potential affiliates, one in eastern New York and one in the western part of the state.  Gray implied that MMH officials may have whittled that number down to one. …

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Fact Meter: Kansas budget director’s chart offers misleading view of KanCare waiting list

Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 28, 2017
 
The fate of thousands of Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities who don’t receive benefits for which they’re qualified remains a contentious issue more than four years into operation of the state’s privatized $3 billion Medicaid system. Shawn Sullivan, budget director for Gov. Sam Brownback, discussed during a presentation to a House and Senate oversight committee the need for sustained state government revenue growth to shrink the waiting list for home- or community-based services through Medicaid. …

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Kansans share KanCare concerns with legislative panel
Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 22, 2017

Individuals and associations representing enrollees in Kansas’ Medicaid program shared frustration Monday with difficulty securing services for thousands of people eligible for assistance as well as with Gov. Sam Brownback’s declaration of policy victory for saving the state treasury $1.4 billion after turning the system over to three insurance companies. … Dozens of issues were raised at the Capitol during a hearing of the Kansas Legislature’s joint committee on KanCare oversight. Testimony in support of the KanCare insurance providers and state agencies blended with complaints raised repeatedly over the years. This inquiry by legislators occurs at a time of transition, with Brownback preparing to leave office and the state applying to the federal government for permission to continue with KanCare, which serves more than 400,000 low-income adults, pregnant women and people with disabilities. …

Feds stop requiring bi-weekly Kansas reports on Medicaid
Source: Associated Press, July 12, 2017
 
Federal officials are no longer requiring Kansas to file bi-weekly reports on a large backlog of applicants for the state’s privatized Medicaid program.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment was notified last week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that the state can discontinue the reports it has been sending since early 2006. At the time, Kansas had more than 7,000 backlogged applications that had been pending for more than 45 days for its Medicaid program, called KanCare. …

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More funding, accountability for VA Choice program proposed, now what?

Source: Steff Thomas, Federal News Radio, August 7, 2017

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin received his wish last week as the House passed a bill that will add an additional $2.1 billion for the Veterans Choice Program. The bill, also known as the Choice Act, was introduced just weeks before the current Choice program funding was set to expire, and passed as a last-minute decision before Congress left for the August recess. One question that still lingers is, if passed into law, how will that money be spent? In an interview on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin, Shulkin outlined in detail some of the ways the Veteran Affairs Department would use the extra funds in a system of modernization projects, construction of new facilities and comprehensive public-private sector partnerships.

… These private-public partnerships would allow veterans to get best-in-class care at VA facilities and, when they needed to, take advantage of the services from community providers. It would alleviate some waiting times and give veterans more options for health care. Shulkin strongly urged that this idea was not an attempt to privatize VA operations, but to create a stronger and more modern system. He said even President Donald Trump’s budget proposal was supportive of improving more services within the VA, and not at all representative of someone supporting privatization. …

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How VA Reform Turned Into a Fight Over Privatization
Source: Russell Berman, The Atlantic, July 17, 2017

In 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs was mired in a scandal. An inspector general’s report had found “systemic” manipulation by government officials to hide lengthy and growing wait times at its medical centers. … Spurred to action, Congress created a program aimed at temporarily alleviating the strain on the VA: Veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a health-care facility or who had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment could take their benefits outside the system and seek treatment from private doctors. …The Choice Program, as it was called, would allow veterans to get the care they needed while giving policy-makers time to make broader fixes at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which suffered from mismanagement and insufficient resources. Three years later, attempts by Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration to extend and significantly expand the Choice Program have given these groups and leading Democrats a new worry: a creeping privatization of the VA. …

Senate Easily Confirms Trump Pick of Shulkin as VA Secretary
Source: Hope Yen, Associated Press, February 13, 2017

The Senate on Monday easily confirmed physician David Shulkin to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, charged with delivering on President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to fix long-standing problems at the department.  Senators voted 100-0 to approve the former Obama administration official, who was the VA’s top health official since 2015, in a rare show of bipartisanship amid partisan rancor over Trump’s other nominees. Shulkin secured the backing of Senate Democrats after pledging at his confirmation hearing to always protect veterans’ interests, even if it meant disagreeing at times with Trump. … The 57-year old physician has ruled out fully privatizing the agency and says wide-scale firings of VA employees are unnecessary, describing the VA workforce as “the best in health care.” … The immediate challenge includes revamping scheduling and access for VA medical appointments following a 2014 wait-time scandal. Shulkin is urging a more integrated VA network where veterans could seek outside private care only in coordination with the VA. He has not sketched out full details. “We’ve yet to hear from him how he’ll pursue President Trump’s vision for a public-private partnership at the VA,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director for the conservative group Concerned Veterans for America. …

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Daily understaffing persists at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

Source: Amy Biolchini, MLive, August 10, 2017

Understaffing at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans continues to be a problem, according to an follow-up audit released by the state. That’s after the home entered into a new staffing contract in fall 2016. … However, most other major problems at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans identified in a blistering state audit in February 2016 have largely been resolved, the report found. …

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Blame for poor care at Grand Rapids veterans home sits at the top, Dems say
Source: Amy Biolchini, MLive, July 27, 2017
 
Democratic State Representatives Winnie Brinks and Tim Greimel say Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette hasn’t gone far enough to hold officials with the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and the state accountable for the poor conditions at the facility.  “Why did it take so long to get some action? For years, our veterans were literally calling for help, pressing the help button beside their bed, and hearing silence,” Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said at a Thursday, July 27, press conference in front of the home.  This week Schuette announced felony charges for falsifying medical records against 11 former nursing assistants who worked for the former contractor, J2S Group Healthforce. His investigation found there wasn’t enough evidence to bring criminal charges over the five worst complaints about member treatment, in some of which veterans died. …

Did a 2011 lawsuit against Grand Rapids Home for Veterans predict the future?
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, July 25, 2017
 
The lawsuit was filed by veteran Anthony Spallone intending to stop the on-going privatization at the time.  Gov. Rick Snyder recommended taking state-employed care aides out the home and replace them with nurse aides hired by local contractor J2s.  It was a contentious environment at the time as state aides lost their jobs and were replaced by people they considered to be less-skilled, less-experienced and cheaper.  Union leaders did everything they could to stop the job losses including filing Spallone’s lawsuit.  It alleged the privatization would lead to substandard care and contended J2S had a quote “dangerous track record of care”.   Spallone’s attorney at the time was adamant veterans could be put in terrible situations with the privatization. …

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Is Privatization on Its Way Out?

Source: Donald Cohen, HuffPost, July 27, 2017

According to a new report by the Transnational Institute, cities across Europe are increasingly deciding to reclaim public goods like water, energy, and health care from corporations and private investors. For example, fourteen cities in the Catalonia region of Spain have brought their water under public control in the past two years alone. … As always, the movement is starting at the bottom.  There’s Milford, Connecticut, a small city pushing to purchase its water system after learning that the corporation that owns it plans to raise rates by nearly 30 percent.  There’s New York, which just brought back state workers to provide IT help desk services after concerns about rising costs in a contract with IBM.  There’s Atlantic City, New Jersey, which earlier this month passed an ordinance to ensure residents get to vote on any action by the state to sell or lease the city’s water system.  There’s Baltimore, Maryland, where teachers just recruited hundreds of new public school students after weeks of knocking on doors. And Miami, Florida, where parents and teachers rallied over the weekend to demand more funding for public education and regulation of charter schools.

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UC employees, students protest in support of contracted valet workers

Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, July 31, 2017
 
About 500 University of California workers and students protested the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s treatment of contracted valet service workers outside the medical center Friday.  Valet service workers, who help park visitor and guest vehicles at the medical center, are contracted through ABM, a facility management company. Beginning in August, however, the hospital will lay off many valet workers because it will no longer be contracting out valet services, said hospital spokesperson Tami Dennis. Instead, it will offer in-sourced full-time, part-time and student positions. … John de los Angeles, communications director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299, the UC’s largest union, said the medical center would only offer 30 positions for the in-sourced program, even though the program currently employs 80 workers.  Several students and workers said they think the hospital will carry out the layoffs because the contract workers received a pay raise. …