Category Archives: Health.Care

Huge federal contractor ‘failed’ to pay workers $100 million in wages, union says

Source: Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, April 23, 2018
 
One of the country’s largest federal contractors has been accused of underpaying about 10,000 workers who run help hotlines for public health insurance programs, including the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, by up to $100 million over the past five years, according to four complaints filed Monday to the Labor Department.  The complaint brought by the Communications Workers of America alleges that General Dynamics Information Technology misclassified employees at call centers in Kentucky, Florida, Arizona and Texas to suppress their wages.  The union, which does not represent the workers, said the contractor hired or promoted workers into roles that require special training but paid them below government-set rates for the jobs they performed. The complaint covers the period since 2013, when GDIT started a $4 billion, 10-year contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. …

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Contractor that handles public’s Medicare queries will do same for Affordable Care Act
Source: Susan Jaffe, Washington Post, June 20, 2013

Within days, the company that handles a daily average of more than 60,000 calls about Medicare will be deluged by new inquiries about health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The six Medicare call centers run by Vangent, a company based in Arlington County, will answer questions about the health-care law from the 34 states that opted out of running their own online health insurance marketplaces or decided to operate them jointly with the federal government. ….. Running the 800-Medicare call centers may provide valuable experience, but Vangent’s track record reveals that it was slow to adapt when changes in the Medicare program caused dramatic spikes in demand. ….. Vangent, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Information Technology, will run both Medicare and the federal health exchange call centers under a contract worth $530 million in its first year.

Contracted Hospital Workers Win Job Security

Source: Laurel Albina, Labor Notes, April 16, 2018

For the first time in 15 years, 4,000 subcontracted hospital housekeepers and dietary workers in British Columbia have job security. They won that peace of mind by pulling off a series of escalating actions on the job. Between 2002 and 2005 the provincial government, headed by the Liberal Party, fired 10,000 hospital support service workers—mostly women and people of color—and subcontracted their jobs to multinational corporations including Aramark, Compass, Sodexo, and Acciona. In the years that followed, the workers who were hired back—less than half of those who’d lost their jobs—reorganized with the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) and bargained hard to regain what they’d lost. But without job security to protect against another change of contractor, all gains were precarious. … In an agreement bargained between HEU, the Ministry of Health, and the regional health authorities, now when commercial contracts are re-tendered, contracted support service employees in HEU will keep their jobs, their union, and their collective agreement.

Ambulance cuts pave way for new ride providers in skilled nursing

Source: Kimberly Marselas, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, April 19, 2018

With mounting financial pressure driving some private ambulance companies out of business, more ride-hailing operators are stepping into the vacuum and providing non-emergency transportation to and from nursing homes. A convergence of private and alternative services has arisen as ambulance operators brace for a 13% cut to one of their bread-and-butter services: non-emergency dialysis transport. Some services have already stopped providing those type of rides to beneficiaries in advance of an Oct. 1 Medicare rate cut. …

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Ford launches on-demand medical transportation service
Source: Megan Rose Dickey, TechCrunch, April 18, 2018

Ford is launching an on-demand transportation service for non-emergency medical needs. The idea is to better help patients get to their doctor appointments. Ford is initially launching this in partnership with Beaumont Health in Michigan to serve more than 200 facilities. Called GoRide, the fleet has 15 transit vans to accommodate people with varying needs. By the end of the year, Ford plans to have 60 vans, all driven by trained professionals, as part of GoRide’s services. The GoRide fleet can accommodate people with wheelchairs, thanks to flexible seats that can flip up and a wheelchair lift. …

… In March, Lyft committed to cut the problem of healthcare transportation in half by 2020. Lyft provides API access to partners like Allscripts, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Ascension to integrate the ride-hailing service into its health platforms and electronic health records services. Meanwhile, people seem to be moving toward on-demand platforms for trips to the emergency room, as well. Last December, a study reported ambulance use has gone down about 7 percent nationwide since the rise of Uber. Though, neither Uber or Lyft are particularly accessible to people with mobility disabilities. In March, Disability Rights Advocates, on behalf of the Independent Living Resource Center and two people who use wheelchairs, filed a class-action lawsuit today against Lyft. The plaintiffs allege the ride-hailing company discriminates against people who use wheelchairs by not making available wheelchair-accessible cars in the San Francisco Bay Area. Uber also faces a number of lawsuits pertaining to the lack of services it offers to people with mobility disabilities. …

FTC ‘Misconduct’ Charges Loom as Uber Health Service Launches
Source: Fred Donovan, Health IT Security, April 16, 2018

Uber is being hit with additional federal penalties for “misconduct” in not reporting a major 2016 data breach at a time when it is launching its Uber Health service, which the ride-sharing company pledges will be HIPAA compliant. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced April 12 that Uber had agreed to expand a proposed settlement it reached last year over charges that it deceived consumers about its privacy and data security practices. The FTC said it was expanding the settlement scope because it learned after the initial settlement that Uber had not disclosed a significant data breach that occurred in 2016 while the agency was investigating the company about the consumer deception charges. … Still, healthcare partners of Uber Health might be concerned about the FTC’s allegations that the parent company deceived consumers about its privacy and data security practices and failed to disclose a major data breach at a time when it was under federal investigation.

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Middleton plan commission delays action on psychiatric hospital

Source: David Wahlberg, Wisconsin State Journal, April 11, 2018

Middleton officials on Tuesday delayed action on a proposed psychiatric hospital after asking executives with the company behind it to explain its regulatory record, including immediate jeopardy citations in other states. “How are you going to apply the lessons which you have learned from other facilities to Middleton?” Mayor Gurdip Brar asked representatives of Strategic Behavioral Health, which plans a 72-bed psychiatric hospital in the city’s Airport Road Business Park. Jim Shaheen, founder and president of the for-profit company in Memphis, Tennessee, said the citations, reported by the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday, stem from occasional problems at the company’s 10 hospitals in six states. … Strategic Behavioral Health has had nine immediate jeopardy violations at four facilities in three states since 2014, plus other sanctions in other states, the State Journal reported. Immediate jeopardy citations are rare and could indicate systemic problems, experts said, but they’re also given out more in some places than others.

UW Students Occupy Building to Protest Closure of Unionized Laundry

Source: Heidi Groover, The Stranger, April 9, 2018
 
About 20 students are currently occupying UW Medicine administrative offices urging the university not to shutter its laundry service. The laundry currently employs about 100 people who clean linens and scrubs for University of Washington Medicine hospitals and clinics. After UW Medicine saw a $75 million operating loss last year, the university is considering shifting from operating the laundry to contracting a private company for the service. The school says the current laundry requires expensive upgrades. Workers say they fear losing steady jobs that pay $15 to $18 an hour. … According to the laundry workers and their unions, most of the laundry employees are immigrants and people of color. Some have worked there more than a decade. Speaking on campus before marching to the UW Medicine building Monday, workers said they fear being unable to support their families without the jobs. The Washington Federation of State Employees and Service Employees International Union 925 represents the laundry workers. During the rally, UW sophomore Iman Mustafa stood next to her father, who has worked at the laundry most of her life. The job offers a stable wage but “no mobility,” Mustafa said. She fears her father will have trouble finding a new job if he’s laid off. The university is “making them all homeless,’ Mustafa said. …

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As UW Laundry Workers Advocate to Keep Their Jobs, 15 Employees Get Layoff Notices
Source: Heidi Groover, The Stranger, April 2, 2018
 
On Wednesday, workers from the University of Washington-run laundry that services UW hospitals and clinics gathered with supporters on the university campus. They fear they could lose their jobs as the university moves to privatize the laundry. They used the rally to highlight that fear and call on the school to reconsider. The next day, 15 of the laundry’s roughly 100 employees got a new reason to worry: They received notices that they will be laid off in 60 days. Rod Palmquist from the Washington Federation of State Employees AFSCME Council 28, which represents some of the laundry workers, said the union plans to rally community members and elected officials to try to fight the layoffs. He said the union does not believe the layoffs are retaliation. …

Workers Protest UW Laundry Closure
Source: Melissa Hellmann, Seattle Weekly, March 29, 2018
 
Patricia Thomas has cleaned patient bed linens and employee uniforms for nearly three decades at Consolidated Laundry, a Rainier Valley facility which serves University of Washington hospitals and clinics. … Thomas never considered getting another job until she returned to her work station in January after a week-long vacation. In the midst of folding clothes, a colleague told her that UW was considering closing the Consolidated Laundry. Citing a $75 million budget shortfall throughout UW Medicine’s operations, the University is considering privatizing its laundry services. … Most of the facility’s workers are middle-aged, immigrants or people of color who rely on the job for its $15 minimum wages, health care, and retirement benefits. “The privatization of this facility risks over 100 good-paying union jobs with members whose families directly rely on that employment,” said Rod Palmquist, the Higher Education Coordinator for the Washington Federation of State Employees. … Over 100 UW Laundry Workers, student members of UW United Students Against Sweatshops, other union member supporters, and political groups gathered at the Drumheller Fountain on UW’s Seattle campus on Wednesday to protest the facility’s closure and to deliver over 600 petition signatures to UW President Ana Mari Cauce. …

Kaiser expands footprint on Maui

Source: Kristen Consillio, Honolulu Star Advertiser, April 4, 2018
 
Kaiser Permanente Hawaii has acquired 6.2 acres under its Wailuku Medical Office for $22 million. The state’s largest health maintenance organization — both a medical provider and health insurer with more than 255,000 members statewide — said the investment “allows for greater flexibility and certainty around future operational costs. … The HMO assumed control of three Maui County hospitals on July 1 in the largest privatization in state history. The HMO pledged to inject more resources into Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lanai Community Hospital, the only acute-care facilities for about 200,000 residents and visitors in Maui County. …

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HGEA nurses disgruntled over Kaiser management
Source: Melissa Tanji, Maui News, February 22, 2018
 
The head of about 800 union workers at Maui Memorial Medical Center said Maui Health System officials need “to step up their game” and start fulfilling “the bill of goods” touted by the private entity to improve former public hospitals on Maui. Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, said on Wednesday that in the past several weeks, union hospital workers have been reaching out to the union to express concern about inadequate staffing, mainly nurses, along with not having enough supplies or staff support at Maui’s only acute-care hospital. He reported that employees believe that the July 1 changeover of operations from the quasi-public Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to Kaiser-affiliated Maui Health System at Maui Memorial, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital has not been as rosy as painted recently in the media. …

The neurosurgeon is out
Source: Chris Sugidono, Maui News, February 11, 2018
 
Maui Health System is in labor negotiations with the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers on the unions’ first contract with the new management. HGEA represents 775 nurses and other health care professionals, while UPW has roughly 500 members working in maintenance, food service and laundry.  HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said in an email that the union’s goal is to ensure the investments from taxpayers and Kaiser “results in the best patient care and services” for Maui County. He added that he would like Kaiser to retain its current employees and recruit highly qualified and experienced “long-term” health care professionals. …

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Workers allege criminal activity at Bridgeport Health Care Center

Source: News12, April 3, 2018
 
Enough is enough. That was the message from the union representing Bridgeport Health Care Center employees. Workers at the facility called attention to what the union alleges is criminal activity by Chaim Stern, the chief financial officer for the privately owned nursing home. Employees claim Stern has failed to pay the staff on time on numerous occasions since June 2017. … “Throughout this ordeal, Bridgeport Health Care Center workers have continued to show up, and do their jobs,” said Sharon Weller, of AFSCME Local 1522.  “That’s because they care about the residents and take pride in their jobs.” …

Napolitano addresses higher education access, student support at LA event

Source: Anirudh Keni, Daily Bruin, March 19, 2018
 
University of California President Janet Napolitano said at an event Monday the University is working to expand access to higher education by accepting more transfer students and improving academic advisory and student support programs. Napolitano spoke to UC regents and local high school students at City Club in Los Angeles about the different ways the University is helping more people attend the UC. Napolitano was briefly interrupted by members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299, the UC’s largest union, protesting UCLA’s decision in August to end its contract with ABM Industries, a facility management company that employed valet workers at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The protesters, who chanted “UCLA, hire the valets,” claimed UCLA’s decision has led to workers losing their jobs or being transferred to other locations that do not offer the same wages or benefits UCLA provides. …

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LACMA’s Art + Film Gala honors Mark Bradford and George Lucas
Source: Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2017

Earlier in the evening, UCLA service and hospital workers who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union tried to steer some of the focus to the Westside by protesting the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s treatment of contract valet workers. They chanted,“David Geffen make it right, support valet workers’ rights,” referring to the philanthropist who recently pledged $150 million toward the construction of a new Peter Zumthor-designed building for LACMA. “More than 40 immigrant service workers have lost their jobs,” union organizer Paul Waters-Smith said. “David Geffen is the most prominent backer to UCLA Health. He can, with a phone call, make it right.”

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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Privatization talks continue for Osawatomie State Hospital

Source: Charity Keitel, Miami County Republic, March 7, 2018
 
The word “privatization” was the elephant in the room during Thursday’s Osawatomie State Hospital (OSH) town hall meeting at Memorial Hall. Residents met with representatives from Correct Care Recovery Solutions, Secretary Tim Keck of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and area legislators hoping to learn more about what a transition from a state-operated facility to a privately-operated facility would entail. And it wasn’t just residents who had questions. Rep. Jene Vickrey questioned Keck a few times, clarifying some of his concerns about the request for proposal (RFP) for privatization as well as his displeasure that KDADS is drafting a bill, regarding the RFP, to be introduced this late into the legislative session. …

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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. …

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. …

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Even discussing selling a nursing home leads to staff turnover, lower quality of care

Source: Rick Lee, York Daily Record, February 28, 2018
 
From Sweden to Taiwan to the United States, decades of international research has established that privatizing nursing homes results in increased staff turnover and decreased quality of care. Even discussing taking a nursing home out of government hands and putting it into the private sector causes staff turnover to begin, according to sociologist Steven Lopez, now an associate professor at Ohio State University. Twenty years ago, Lopez examined three Pennsylvania nursing homes – one that considered privatization; one that was taken over by a for-profit management company; and a privately owned nursing home documented as having low wages, high employee turnover and poor quality of care. Currently, the York County commissioners are exploring the possibility of selling the county-owned nursing home – Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. …

… Russ McDaid, the president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, an advocacy organization for many of the commonwealth’s nursing homes, said that is a problem facing many county-owned homes. … There are some people, McDaid said, who believe they can make a nursing home profitable through enhancing revenues and/or decreasing costs. The obvious places to cut costs is with staff numbers and wages, he said. … Both Adams and Lancaster counties sold their county nursing homes for similar financial reasons that are facing York County. …

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Results mixed for other counties that sold nursing homes
Source: David Weissman, York Dispatch, February 28, 2018

As York County Commissioners consider selling the Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, they can look for guidance from plenty of other Pennsylvania counties that have recently sold their nursing homes. A York Dispatch review of state Department of Health records and local news reports from across the state found that at least 18 counties have sold their nursing homes, primarily to for-profit companies, since 2005. York County is one of 18 counties that still owns their own nursing homes, according to the review. … Selling Pleasant Acres, which taxpayers have subsidized to the tune of about $75 million during the past 10 years, has been discussed for many years because of its rising costs. The county has contracted the assistance of Susquehanna Group Advisors to solicit bids for Pleasant Acres, though commissioners insist they haven’t made a final determination to sell the 375-bed facility. Andrisano said she has seen counties reverse course after expressing an interest in selling their nursing homes because of constituent feedback, though it’s rare and she couldn’t recall any specific example. York County administrator Mark Derr said he’s been told 15 companies have expressed some form of interest in the nursing home, and final bid submissions are due March 15. …