Category Archives: Health.Care

Health Alliance loses bid for state retiree contract

Source: Debra Pressey, News Gazette, October 2, 2013

The state has selected four new contractors for state retiree health coverage, effective Jan. 1, 2014, and Health Alliance Medical Plans isn’t among them.

That will require 6,000 retirees who get their care through the Carle health system to change where they go for medical care by the end of the year, Health Alliance spokeswoman Jane Hayes said Wednesday morning.

The state awarded new contracts Tuesday for Medicare Advantage Plans for retirees to Aetna Life Insurance Co., Humana Health, Humana Benefit Plan and United Healthcare….

Justification for Privatized Poultry Inspection Flawed, GAO Study Reveals

Source: Food and Water Watch, Press Release, September 4, 2013

Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a scathing analysis of the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) in poultry slaughter, the pilot project that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is using to justify its proposal to privatize poultry inspection in some 200 poultry plants across the country. The proposed “Modernization of Poultry Inspection” rule published by FSIS on January 27, 2012, would remove most FSIS inspectors from the slaughter lines and replace them with untrained company employees, allowing processing companies to police themselves. It would also permit chicken plants to increase line speeds to 175 birds-per-minute. FSIS has received hundreds of thousands of comments from consumers opposed to this change.
See also:
Food Safety: More Disclosure and Data Needed to Clarify Impact of Changes to Poultry and Hog Inspections
Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO-13-775, August 22, 2013

EEOC Sues Midwest Regional Medical Center For Disability Discrimination

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Press Release, July 30, 2013

Hospital Fired Employee for Accepting its Offer of a Brief Leave of Absence After Cancer Treatment, Federal Agency Charged

Midwest Regional Medical Center, an acute care hospital and for-profit Oklahoma limited liability corporation, violated federal law by firing an employee because of her cancer and cancer treatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Janice Withers was hired by Midwest Regional Medical Center on Oct. 3, 2011, as a nurse aide. In late December 2011, Withers advised her supervisor, Registered Nurse Susan Milan, that she had recently been diagnosed with cancer and would undergo radiation treatment during the period January through February 2012. …On March 5, Milan contacted Withers by telephone and advised that she was placing her on a further leave of absence until March 12, telling her to “get rested up from the radiation.” Milan sent Withers a letter, dated March 5, memorializing that she had been placed on a leave of absence until March 12. The letter provided that Withers was expected to obtain an unrestricted release to work, and return to work no later than March 12.

However, on March 12, Milan told Withers that she was discharged as of March 9 for “no call/no show.” The EEOC said that Withers could have returned to work on March 12 and performed her essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation had she been permitted to do so by her employer.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. Midwest Regional Medical Center, Civil Case No.: CIV-13-789-M) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and reinstatement or front pay for Withers, as well as injunctive relief, including a court order prohibiting Midwest Regional Medical Center from any further discrimination against employees because of their disability.

EEOC Sues OhioHealth / Riverside Methodist Hospital for Disability Discrimination

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Press Release, August 7, 2013

Employee Denied Accommodations, Unlawfully Fired, Federal Agency Charges

OhioHealth Corporation, doing business as Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, violated federal law by failing to accommodate and then firing an employee with narcolepsy, a chronic central nervous system disorder, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit it announced today….According to its website, Riverside Methodist Hospital is the largest member hospital of OhioHealth, a not-for-profit healthcare system based in Columbus, Ohio….

Valley View: Department merger plan a disservice to mentally ill

Source: Michael N. Kelsey, Poughkeepsie Journal, July 11, 2013

June signaled the start of the county executive’s preparations for next year’s county budget, which the Legislature will scrutinize in November before eventual adoption in December. In his January State of the County address, the county executive announced plans to merge the county Department of Mental Hygiene (DMH) with the Health Department. This concept was revisited in June with the resignation of Health Department Commissioner Michael Caldwell after 19 years to make way for the impending department merger. Such an alleged cost-savings-intended measure will be a disservice to the one in four adults who struggle with mental illness in our society, will undermine other legitimate county functions, and ultimately will result in a higher criminal justice budget….
Related:
Dutchess County Engages CGR to Assess Potential Merger of Health &
Mental Hygiene Departments

Source: Center for Governmental Research, Press Release, July 30, 2013

Healthy Counties Initiative

Source: National Association of Counties (NACo), 2013

NACo’s Healthy Counties Initiative aims to enhance public/private part­nerships in local health delivery, improve individual and community health, and assist counties to effectively implement federal health reform. The initiative engages county of­ficials and private sector partners across the country to:
– Take a leadership role in implementing health reform at the coun­ty level;
– Enhance coverage, access to and coordination of health care for vulnerable populations in the community, including health servic­es in hospitals, community health centers and county jails, while focusing on cost-containment strategies;
– Promote community public health, prevention and wellness pro­grams, including increased physical activity and healthy eating;
– Participate in the national transition to health information tech­nology and telemedicine; and
– Offer information, ideas and solutions for county government employee and retiree health benefits and programs.

NACo’s Healthy Counties Initiative supports innovative public-private partnerships within the many areas of health that counties are involved with and highlights county health best practices enhanced through collaboration with the private sector.

Death By For-Profit Health Care

Source: strikedebt.org, March 26, 2013

This report is part of an ongoing effort by a group of health care practitioners, lawyers, researchers, and activists to expose the disastrous impact of medical debt and for-profit health care on families and individuals in the United States. Private health care enriches a few—insurance companies, private equity firms, pharmaceutical companies, debt collectors, and global investors—at the expense of everyone else. Medical debt is a weapon of the class war because when patients cannot afford medical care, they are forced into debt, often with far-ranging and catastrophic consequences. As the rate of uninsured has grown, local governments have looked to state subsidies for private health insurance as a band-aid solution. Massachusetts has implemented such a program, and the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act has expanded this initiative on a national scale. Unfortunately, the ACA will not solve the problem because its primary goal is to expand the market-based system that has already proved to be a miserable failure. Insurance companies profit by denying coverage. As costs rise and benefits shrink, patients will continue to pay the price. We are in a major health care crisis, the consequences of which will be felt for decades to come. The only real solutions are: a grassroots social movement to demand universal health care, an end to the scourge of medical debt, and a national conversation on the meaning of health and wellness.

Mental Health Cuts in Utah Leave Some Feeling Adrift

Source: Jack Healy, New York Times, July 24, 2013

…Citing budget cuts, the nonprofit agency, Valley Mental Health, was removing Ms. Graham and some 2,200 other people from its roster and transferring them to other providers, a change that mental health advocates said was striking in its size and sweep, even in these austere times. … Valley Mental Health, which had about 10,000 clients before the recent reductions, is by far the largest and most expansive mental health agency in the state. It treats autistic children, recently released prisoners, people who have just attempted suicide and those who need little more than prescription refills to help manage their depression or anxiety. The organization has also faced years of money problems. In 2009, it announced plans to lay off more than 100 employees and slash several programs to cope with drastic budget shortfalls. Over the past two years, Valley Mental Health said, its $28 million budget fell by more than $5 million, as the county received less in Medicaid payments and a for-profit company took over managing mental health services in Salt Lake County. County officials hired that company, OptumHealth, a subsidiary of the UnitedHealth Group, to bring more efficiency and wider services to public health care. But Valley Mental Health seemed to struggle under the new layer of private management. …

Fewer Hospitals May Lead to Higher Prices

Source: Kate Pickert, Time, Swampland, July 23, 2013

Obamacare is coming and with it a new wave of hospital consolidation… Put another way, the new large system will have more market power that may allow it to demand higher reimbursements from private insurers, ultimately raising costs for consumers. Consolidation like this is happening all over the country, as hospitals acquire each other and merge in a trend that started decades ago and may be accelerated by the new health care law. This consolidation reduces competition in markets and gives hospitals more leverage to raise prices….

Meet Serco, the private firm getting $1.2 billion to process your Obamacare application

Source: Sarah Kliff, Washington Post, Wonkblog, July 16, 2013

I wrote a story for today’s paper about Serco, the contracting firm that recently won a $1.2 billion health law contract. That story focused mostly on a British investigation of the firm’s parent company, Serco Group, for overbilling the government by “tens of millions of pounds.”

What didn’t make it into the story was some interesting background on the firm, which plans to hire 1,500 workers to handle any paper applications for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Most of it came from a conversation with Alan Hill, Serco’s head of media relations. Here’s what I learned.

Ninety percent of its business is with the federal government… Serco’s experience isn’t in health care. It’s in paper pushing. … The Obamacare contract is a huge win for Serco. …
Related:
U.S. administration defends Obamacare contractor after UK probe
Source: David Morgan, Reuters, July 16, 2013