Category Archives: Health.Care

America’s Rural Hospitals Are Dangerously Fragile

Source: Brian Alexander, The Atlantic, January 9, 2018

… Last November, however, Circleville’s voters chose another direction, one that, in other places, has resulted in an economic hit to the community—mostly in the form of job losses and stagnant wages—as well as a lowered quality of care. At the urging of city and county leaders, and Berger’s administrators, residents voted to allow local politicians and the hospital’s board to begin a process to turn Berger, one of the last publicly owned and operated hospitals in the state, into a nonprofit private corporation. Following that, Berger would most likely be integrated into a larger regional system, probably the Columbus-based nonprofit Ohio Health, with which Berger has an ongoing relationship. …
 
… Hospitals have been struggling—especially independent public and/or nonprofit hospitals located in smaller cities and rural towns. Last year, for example, the National Rural Health Association, a nonprofit, estimated that 673 rural facilities (with a variety of ownership structures) were at risk of closure, out of over 2,000. And with the new tax legislation, and events like the merger of the drugstore chain CVS and the insurer Aetna, the turmoil looks to get worse. In response, stand-alone nonprofit hospitals have been auctioning off their real estate to investors, selling themselves to for-profit chains or private-equity firms, or, like Berger, folding themselves into regional health systems. …

Iowa lawmakers return with to-do list on taxes, Medicaid

Source: Barbara Rodriguez, Associated Press, January 7, 2018
 
Iowa lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Monday with a to-do list ranging from overhauling state taxes to possibly addressing issues with the privatized Medicaid program. Republicans, entering a second year of complete statehouse control, will work amid another budget crunch and a looming election year. …

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Medicaid privatization is saving Iowa 80% less money than predicted, state report says
Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, January 5, 2018
 
Iowa’s controversial shift to privately managed Medicaid will save the state 80 percent less money this fiscal year than originally predicted, a recent state estimate suggests.  Iowa now stands to save $47.1 million this fiscal year by having private companies manage the $4 billion program, according to a quarterly report prepared by staff members from the Department of Human Services.  After then-Gov. Terry Branstad ordered the shift in 2015, he predicted it would save the state $232 million in fiscal year 2018. That is the current budget year. In fiscal year 2017, which ended last June 30, the state saved nearly $119 million over what it would have spent having government administrators run the program, according to a DHS report using the same criteria used in the new estimate. …

‘We’re completely in the dark’: Families still uncertain after Iowa Medicaid transition
Source: Stephen Gruber-Miller, Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 12, 2017
 
Ryan’s case is one example of the uncertainty that has played out in households around the state in the wake of AmeriHealth’s decision this fall to leave Iowa after it could not reach an agreement with the state on reimbursement rates.  Join now for as low as $29/YR Subscribe Now AmeriHealth and the two other companies chosen to manage Iowa’s Medicaid program when it was privatized last year by then-Gov. Terry Branstad have complained of losing hundreds of millions of dollars.  When AmeriHealth announced it was leaving, state officials first gave families a choice between UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup, the third company. Then they backtracked, saying Amerigroup did not have the capacity to handle new clients. In late November, the Department of Human Services said it would resume oversight for more than 10,000 Iowans who had tried to switch companies before the deadline. …

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Hospitals slam Kansas’ proposed Medicaid overhaul

Source: Virgil Dickson, Modern Healthcare, January 3, 2018
 
Providers are concerned that a new waiver to overhaul Kansas’ Medicaid program will impede access to care and further empower managed-care plans, which they claim lack proper oversight.   For years, Kansas providers have complained the state’s Medicaid program, known as KanCare, was complex to work under and that it underpaid or didn’t pay at all for services.  Rather than revamp KanCare’s oversight of the plans, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback submitted a waiver late last month that appears to cede additional power to them, providers said. …

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Legislative Panel Backs KanCare Renewal Plan, But Opponents Hope To Block Implementation
Source: Jim Mclean, KCUR, December 1, 2017

Republican legislators have temporarily sidetracked an effort to block the Brownback administration from obtaining federal approval to renew KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Democrats on a joint committee that oversees KanCare wanted the panel’s report to the full Legislature to recommend keeping the current program in place until a newly elected governor takes office in January 2019. … In addition to the timing issue, advocates and some lawmakers are concerned about several provisions in the administration’s KanCare 2.0 plan, including work requirements and lifetime caps on services for some beneficiaries. …

GOP candidates fight over health program serving 400,000 Kansans
Source: Jonathan Shorman, Wichita Eagle, November 26, 2017
 
A fight between the Republican candidates for governor over the state’s privatized Medicaid program could shape what happens to the health care of more than 400,000 Kansans.  The next governor could abandon a proposed work requirement for some recipients of KanCare, which serves people who are poor, elderly or have disabilities. Or he could pursue Medicaid expansion.  Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is preparing to become governor, spearheaded the creation of KanCare in 2013. Some of his opponents say the current administration, including Colyer, has poorly run the program. …

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Home care registry bill on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk could lead to lawsuit

Source: Shira Schoenberg, MassLive, November 15, 2017
 
A bill creating a registry for home care workers is back on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, to the dismay of home care workers who are considering a court challenge.  “This legislation exposes these essential frontline direct care workers to enormous privacy and due process violations,” wrote advocates for the home care workers in a statement.  The bill, H.3821, would require home care workers who work for state-contracted agencies to include in a database their name, home and mailing addresses, gender, job title, and training or certifications. The information could be reported to labor unions, home care worker agencies and private organizations that have state contracts to connect people with elder services. …

‘One day longer’: Union pledges to outlast Cedar Haven owner in four-week-old strike

Source: Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, November 17, 2017
 
The local union president for striking Cedar Haven employees thanked her fellow nurses at a rally Friday – but she also issued a dire warning to any who might be thinking of crossing the four-week-old picket line.  “If we lose this fight, like people have said, where on earth are people going to bring their loved ones for quality care?” Penny Kleinfelter asked. “If we would, somehow, lose this fight, I would hold everyone who crossed that picket line responsible for helping to ruin Cedar Haven’s future.”  Union officials said they haven’t received any new offers from nursing home owner Chas Blalack of Stone Barn Holdings. In fact, Kleinfelter said Blalack’s alleged unwillingness to negotiate may now not only be about the contract – which reduces paid time off and substantially increases employee costs for health insurance – but also about breaking the will of the union. … The lengthy standoff has caught the attention of regional and international union leaders for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Officials announced that the international union is donating $10,000 to support strike operations, while AFSCME Council 13 is donating another $10,000. …

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Because They Care: Cedar Haven Workers and Residents Stand for Dignity
Source: Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride, HuffPost, November 14, 2017
 
It’s not easy for workers to stand up to powerful bosses in our country today. Too often, the deck is stacked against them. But when healthcare workers and the people they take care of join together on the picket line, you know something extraordinary is going on. That’s exactly what is happening at Cedar Haven nursing home, where residents are joining nurses, nursing assistants, and support staff and making a powerful statement about dignity for all. … The staff of Cedar Haven are care takers, whether for the facility’s residents, their own children or their aging parents. The vast majority of the 300 employees are women, many of them single mothers. Blalack’s unilateral decision to increase their health care costs is a mark of disrespect to the people who provide top notch care to the residents of Cedar Haven. After Blalack refused to negotiate, they took the only action they could: they went on strike.  When I joined the strikers on the picket line last week, several residents were on hand, showing their support. …

Two weeks in, Cedar Haven strikers are prepared for Christmas
Source: Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, November 3, 2017

A labor dispute at Cedar Haven shows no signs of abating two weeks after nurses went on strike. If you need proof, consider this: AFSCME Local 2732 President Penny Kleinfelter has placed an artificial Christmas tree along the Fifth Avenue picket line in preparation for the holiday season. Kleinfelter said she isn’t trying to send a message – she’s just decorating, since she usually puts up her Christmas tree at home at the beginning of November. But she hopes Cedar Haven ownership understands the strikers are “in it for the long haul.” … Some union members have applied for unemployment compensation, and the union is defending their claim on the basis that they went on strike to protest an unfair labor practice, said AFSCME council director Steve Mullen. The union has maintained that owner Stone Barn Holdings bargained in bad faith by implementing a new contract even though it was voted down by union members and while negotiations were still ongoing. …

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Financial Woes Continue For Massena Hospital

Source: WWNYtv, November 20, 2017
 
Massena Memorial Hospital continues to rack up financial losses as it moves toward a potential privatization next year.  The hospital had an almost $880,000 loss from operations in October, compared to an almost $150,000 gain in October 2016. So far this year the hospital has a loss from operations of nearly $3 million.  Hospital executives attributed the losses to a number of factors. Two big ones were increased pension and health insurance costs. They are growing increasingly frustrated with higher pension costs. … The hospital’s merger talks with other hospitals are basically on hold until a transfer agreement can be worked out with the town, Wolleben said. …

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Incumbent Massena Town Supervisor issues last-minute debate challenge to Democratic opponent
Source: Abraham Kenmore, Watertown Daily Times, November 4, 2017
 
Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray issued a challenge late Thursday to his opponent for a debate, four days before the election. In an interview with the Times on Thursday, Mr. Gray, the Republican incumbent, said he was challenging his Democratic opponent, Councilman Steven D. O’Shau­ghnessy, to a debate tonight in the Town Hall. He then issued a press release late Thursday night specifying that he had reserved Room 30 for 7 p.m. at the Town Hall to take community questions. … Mr. Gray has accused Mr. O’Shaughnessy of striking a deal to keep the hospital under town control in exchange for the endorsement of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 887, which represents over 200 workers at the Massena Memorial Hospital and opposes privatization. Mr. O’Shaughnessy has denied any such deal, and said Mr. Gray raised similar accusations that council members with state pensions would be under the control of Albany. …

Gray accuses O’Shaughnessy of opposing hospital privatization
Source:Abraham Kenmore, Watertown Daily Times, November 3, 2017
 
Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray issued a news release Monday questioning the endorsement of councilman Steven D. O’Shau­ghnessy, his Democratic opponent, by Civil Service Employees Association Local 887, which represents over 200 workers at the Massena Memorial Hospital. The CSEA has organized protests against the privatization of the hospital, which Mr. Gray says is necessary to keep the debt-ridden hospital open. …

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UCLA student groups advocate for medical center valet workers

Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, October 24, 2017 
UCLA labor- and immigration-justice groups held a town hall meeting Monday night to urge UCLA to create more insourced positions for contract valet workers at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.  … Victoria Salgado, a union organizer at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest union, said many workers are concerned for their job security because they received unclear notifications in July and September about their employment dates. … Owen Li, a senior researcher for AFSCME Local 3299, said the UC has been increasing executive pay while cutting benefits for workers.  “The University of California literally wastes billions of dollars on hedge funds, management bloats and on these crazy executive perks,” he said.  The UC has 67 percent more overall staff than in 1993, and the number of senior managers has increased by 327 percent since 1993, Li added.  Li said most of the jobs UCLA is offering to current valet workers are part-time jobs, which he he thinks do not offer enough pay to live on. …

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Valet workers transferred from UCLA fear insourcing, loss of benefits
Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, October 8, 2017
 
Edwin Cifuentes, a contracted valet worker at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said many valet workers who are being transferred away from UCLA are worried their new jobs will not offer them the same wages or benefits UCLA provided. … In August, UCLA ended its contract with ABM, a facility management company that employed valet workers like Cifuentes at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Although ABM had employed about 80 valet workers at the hospital, the university created about 35 in-house positions and has also hired part-time student workers.  Workers UCLA did not rehire are set to leave by Oct. 30, said Victoria Salgado, union organizer at American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest union. … Throughout the summer, ABM workers have protested the insourcing alongside AFSCME, including at the medical center in July and at the inaugural UC public law conference in September.  John de los Angeles, communications director for AFSCME, said when workers interviewed for the inhouse positions at UCLA, UCLA management discouraged workers from participating in union activities. In return, AFSCME issued a cease and desist letter in July. …

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. …

Consultant: BRF lacks cash, experience to adequately manage hospitals

Source: KTBS, October 10, 2017
 
Biomedical Research Foundation’s lack of cash could cause the state to lose funding for free and low-cost health care at the former public hospitals the foundation operates in Shreveport and Monroe.  Documents obtained by KTBS through an open records request show state officials are concerned the hospitals could lose Medicaid funding. That federal money helps cover the cost of treating poor people without insurance at the hospitals BRF operates as University Health through a wholly-owned subsidiary.  In September, state officials put BRF on notice it had breached its contract to operate the hospitals, in part because BRF has failed to pay doctors at LSU Medical School in Shreveport for treating patients. BRF also owes the state for a lease on the hospital property. …

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$135M boost going to LSU hospital managers under new deals
Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, October 27, 2016

The private operators of LSU’s charity hospitals and clinics are in line for a $135 million boost in their payments as part of new deals struck by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, and the university’s medical schools will benefit from some of the new money. State lawmakers are being asked Friday to increase financing for the privatization deals to nearly $1.3 billion in the current budget year, only four months after lawmakers were told the previous level of funding was sufficient. … The money for the hospital and clinic operators is part of a larger budget adjustment requested by the Louisiana Department of Health at Friday’s meeting of the joint House and Senate budget committee. Jeff Reynolds, chief financial officer for the health department, said $135 million is a financing increase for the private managers that have taken over LSU’s hospitals, clinics and patient services. He said the additional payments are part of the renegotiated deals recently worked out by the Edwards administration. … The renegotiated privatization deals crafted by the Edwards administration included provisions in which some of the hospitals will be paying more money for the services of LSU’s doctors who work at the hospitals. … Henry said he wanted to know why the dollars weren’t available when lawmakers were crafting the budget in June, when they were told the previous level of agreed-upon financing was sufficient for the privatization agreements. …

Negotiating over, Edwards makes offers on LSU hospital deals
Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, September 7, 2016

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration will make its offer Thursday to the operator of LSU’s hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe for a renegotiated contract with the state, as the governor pushes to rewrite all the LSU hospital privatization deals. Edwards’ lead negotiator on the contracts, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, said Thursday’s presentation to the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana is the last offer to be made. … Dardenne wouldn’t provide details about what changes are being sought in the north Louisiana hospitals’ deal — or any others. But he said negotiations are over and hospital operators can either take or leave the reworked arrangements offered. … Former Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized nine LSU-run hospitals and their clinics through no-bid contracts, with the earliest deal starting in April 2013. In most instances, the management company of a nearby hospital took over operations. Three contracts closed an LSU hospital — in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Pineville — and shifted its services to private hospitals. The Edwards administration says the deals were too hastily slapped together, with terms that aren’t favorable to the state. … LSU System President F. King Alexander described the arrangement to have the foundation, known as BRF, run the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals as dysfunctional from its start in October 2013. Alexander said the research foundation, which runs the two hospitals as the University Health System, doesn’t have the resources or experience, isn’t paying bills on time and isn’t providing enough support to the LSU medical school in Shreveport. BRF and University Health leaders say Alexander’s accusations are untrue and LSU’s Shreveport medical school has financial problems of its own making. They say the research foundation’s hospital management has improved health care. …

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Council urges Univ. of Memphis to decline state outsourcing contract

Source: Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal, September 20, 2017

With the University of Memphis’ next Board of Trustees meeting set for early October, members of the Memphis City Council are asking that the group think twice before opting into the state’s facilities management contract. It’s no secret the University of Memphis plans to opt into the state’s property management contract, said Councilman Martavius Jones, who sponsored a resolution Sept. 19 urging local universities and their administrators to do the opposite. In May, the State of Tennessee entered into a contract with Chicago-based JLL to privatize maintenance, security, janitorial and landscaping services for state-owned public colleges and universities. “Based on my experience on the school board, the quality of the service, the cleanliness and the general morale suffered [when outsourced],” said Jones, who served on the Memphis City Schools Board from 2006 to 2013. …

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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. …

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. …

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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. …