Category Archives: Health.Care

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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Privatization Is Changing America’s Relationship With Its Physical Stuff

Source: Brian Alexander, The Atlantic, July 12, 2017
 
… As vague as Trump’s pronouncements have been on the matter, it is clear that the general thrust behind the promised building-and-repair push involves using federal dollars as up-front investment to entice private enterprises to provide most of the financing. While Democrats announced their opposition, the general idea of increased privatization of infrastructure has had a bipartisan cast. President Obama supported a plan to create an “infrastructure bank” that would help finance so-called public-private partnerships (known, for their alliteration, as P3s), but that idea fizzled under the glare of Republican opposition. He also floated the idea of selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority. …

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Selling Back To The Public What It Already Owned: ‘Public-Private Partnership’ Shark Bait
Source: Mercedes Schneider, Huffington Post, June 12, 2017
 
Today, I read two articles centered on this idea, both of which concerned Vice President Mike Pence – and one that concerned Pence’s role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  One article also included a sprinkling of US secretary of [privatized] education, Betsy DeVos.  A major goal of corporate education reform is to deliver public education to private entities (corporations, or even nonprofits, but don’t think that an entity termed “nonprofit” cannot be a handsome money dispenser for those running the nonprofit and doling out contracts). However, the extreme-right-Republican aim does not end with public education but with delivering the operation of the entire American infrastructure to private entities.  In the end, what this entails is having private corporations front money to state and local governments in order to lease back to the public what the public already owns.

How President Trump Might Carry The Torch Of Privatization
Source: Here & Now, WBUR, May 8, 2017

… Now President Trump is poised to continue privatization and private contracting in all kinds of industries, from education to incarceration. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson looks at the history and politics of privatization with Donald Cohen and Shahrzad Habibi of the group In The Public Interest. …

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Pottstown, Phoenixville schools eye tax cost of hospital sale

Source: Evan Brandt, The Mercury, June 16, 2017

… The potential sale of Pottstown and Phoenixville hospitals to a nonprofit company is being viewed with foreboding by business officials in school districts that stand to lose millions in property tax revenues. Officials at both Pottstown and Phoenxiville school districts said the respective hospitals in each borough are their largest property taxpayer. And each said that if the sale of the two hospitals — now owned by the Tennessee-based for-profit Community Health Systems — to the nonprofit Reading Health Systems goes through, they stand to lose as much as $900,000 a year or more in tax revenues. …

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CHS agrees to sell 5 more hospitals in Pennsylvania
Source: Dave Barkholz, Modern Healthcare, May 30, 2017

Struggling Community Health Systems has agreed to sell five hospitals in Pennsylvania to the not-for-profit Reading Health System.  The five hospitals are part of the 30 hospitals that Franklin, Tenn.-based CHS has agreed to sell to reduce a $15 billion debt burden. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  They are169-bed Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville, 148-bed Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, 63-bed Jennersville Hospital in West Grove, 151-bed Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville and 232-bed Pottstown Memorial Medical Center in Pottstown. …

Paul Ryan Still Talking Up The Idea Of Privatizing Medicare

Source: Tierney Sneed, Talking Points Memo, May 12, 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan hasn’t let go of his cherished idea of privatizing Medicare and in an interview with a local Wisconsin radio station Friday, suggested that a blueprint for overhauling Medicare would advance in the Budget Committee again this year. … Ryan has released various versions of his so-called “Path to Prosperity” budget blueprint that have included a privatization of Medicare. The general idea he has promoted is turning Medicare into a so-called “premium support” system — i.e. a voucher system — in which seniors would get a set amount of money to shop around for private health care plans. Earlier versions of his proposal would have lead to a phase-out of Medicare altogether. Some experts have argued that even the most recent iteration of his blueprint, which ostensibly leaves some form of traditional Medicare available, would eventually lead to its phase-out as well. … It’s not just Ryan that’s trying to make Medicare privatization happen. Trump’s Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a former House member with a reputation as a budget hawk, said last month that it was his “guess is the House will do either that or something similar to that.” …

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Trumpcare Will Be A Gold Rush For Private Contractors
Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, March 16, 2017

… What the bill would do to Medicaid, the health care program for poor, elderly, and disabled Americans, plays right into the hands of private contractors looking to score big on taxpayer money. By including Medicaid “block grants,” which is a fancy way of saying “cuts,” the bill would force states to slash costs. And when budgets are tight, corporations come calling, claiming they’ll do the work cheaper, better, and faster. But, whether it’s running private prisons or operating water utilities, their claims often ring hollow, especially when it comes to helping those on the margins of society. Just look at what happened to cash assistance for families with children, known as “TANF.” After the program was block granted in 1996, a cottage industry sprung up to squeeze profits from the limited pool of welfare funds. Within five years, over $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars meant for poor families had gone to contractors like IBM and Lockheed Martin. By 2014, only 26 percent of TANF dollars were going to basic assistance for poor families. … Over 60 percent of nursing home residents and two in five kids in the U.S. rely on the program. It’s also the main public funding source for family planning, like contraceptive counseling and care, and screenings for sexually transmitted infections and cancer.

… The struggle to protect Medicaid, let alone expand it, will only get tougher. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Seema Verma, a private health care consultant, to lead the agency in charge of the program. Verma supports block grants and has helped a number of states, including Iowa, privatize their Medicaid programs. Less than a year in, Iowa’s privatized program is spinning into disaster for 600,000 poor, elderly, and disabled Iowans. If Trump wanted somebody who knows the corporate takeover of Medicaid in and out, he certainly found her. While helping Indiana overhaul its program, Verma was also on the payroll of one of the state’s largest Medicaid vendors, Hewlett-Packard. …

Senate confirms Trump’s Medicaid, Medicare pick
Source: The Hill, March 13, 2017
 
The Senate voted to clear Seema Verma to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Trump.  Verma was confirmed in a 55-43 vote Monday evening. She will now be dropped into the fight over how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and is expected to play a large role in any attempt to reform either Medicare or Medicaid. … Democrats largely said they opposed Verma’s nomination after trying unsuccessfully to pin her down on a number of policy issues during her confirmation hearing, including if or how she would reform the programs.

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Texas Lawmakers: Investigate State Contract with Anti-Choice Group

Source: Teddy Wilson, Rewire, March 22, 2017

Eight months after Texas officials gave an anti-choice crusader’s organization a contract to provide low-income people with access to health care, there are questions from lawmakers and advocates about the apparent failure of the organization to deliver those services. Both Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are calling for an investigation into how a contract was awarded to The Heidi Group, an anti-choice organization that has no history of providing health care or similar services, and why taxpayer dollars are being used to promote the anti-choice pseudoscience of so-called “abortion pill reversal.” … The Texas House General Investigating and Ethics Committee will began holding hearings in the coming weeks, and Howard told Rewire that she has talked to members of the committee who indicated there should be questions about women’s health contracts, specifically the one with The Heidi Group. Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), chairperson of the committee, questioned state officials last week about the Heidi Group contract during a committee hearing. Davis indicated the committee will scrutinize how the Heidi Group contract was awarded, reported the Associated Press.

… The Heidi Group was awarded a $1.6 million contract to provide family planning services through HTWP; the former Planned Parenthood clinic site in Bryan was included in Everett’s proposal.The Heidi Group had never before provided health care services, and has focused predominantly on supporting anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers. … The Heidi Group also appears to be funneling taxpayer dollars to fake clinics. … Eight months after the The Heidi Group was awarded the contract, the organization is “quietly sputtering” and has “little to show,” according to a report by the Associated Press. …

Maui Hospital Transition May Proceed; Injunction Dissolved

Source: Joe Kent, The Maui News, January 21, 2018
 
One of the biggest savings will likely come from control over labor costs. Previously, the hospitals were left out of negotiations with their union employees; instead, such talks were handled at the state level. Now the Maui Health System can, for the first time, negotiate directly with the United Public Workers and Hawaii Government Employees Association unions. This is expected to result in better use of the hospital staffs and a big cost savings. …

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Souki: Hospital subsidies will return to budget
Source: Colleen Uechi, Maui News, March 29, 2017

State lawmakers said Tuesday that funds for the future operation of three Maui County hospitals under Kaiser Permanente likely will be returned to the budget, after the House Finance Committee removed it earlier this month, concerning hospital officials. House Speaker Joe Souki of Maui said Tuesday that “there’s a general agreement between both sides” that funding for the hospitals would be restored in conference budget talks. … But the transition stalled due to a United Public Workers lawsuit claiming that the public-private partnership impaired a contract between the state and the union. By the time both parties had reached a settlement, Kaiser and the state had decided to push the transition date to July 1 of this year.

Interim HHSC Maui Region chief named
Source: Maui News, September 24, 2016

Longtime Maui Memorial Medical Center Dr. Barry Shitamoto has been selected as interim chief executive officer of Hawaii Health Systems Corp.’s Maui Region, effective Nov. 1, according to an announcement. Shitamoto will replace Wesley Lo, current Maui Region chief executive office, who announced earlier this month that he would leave Oct. 31 to take over as chief executive officer at Hale Makua Health Services. … Last year, lawmakers passed a measure to privatize Maui Region hospitals. And, in January, the governor signed a deal to transfer hospital operations to Kaiser Permanente. The transfer was supposed to take effect July 1, but it has been blocked by hospital worker unions. Kaiser has said it plans to take over hospital operations July 1, a year later than the original transfer date. The current changeover date is a day after the expiration of labor contracts with the United Public Workers union and Hawaii Government Employees Association. The UPW has 536 blue-collar employees at Maui Region hospitals, and the HGEA represents 900 white-collar employees, including nurses and supervisors. …

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Governor agrees to direct-care worker raises

Source: Ben Gocker, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 30, 2017

Gov. Andrew Cuomo surpassed the state Legislature Tuesday in offering pay raises to people who work with those with disabilities. Cuomo’s $55 million goes beyond $45 million proposed by both the state Senate and Assembly. Cuomo had not included any increases for these workers in his initial state budget in January. The size of the increase will be worked out in ongoing budget negotiations between the two legislative chambers and the governor. The additional funds would help direct-support professionals who work for nonprofit organizations that contract with the state, such as the Adirondack Arc and Citizen Advocates, but not workers for state agencies such as the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, who tend to have better pay and benefits. … #bFair2DirectCare, a statewide coalition of advocates for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, their families and their direct care providers, has been fighting for better pay for these private-sector workers. … Most of the funding Adirondack Arc receives comes from Medicaid, and CEO Sadie Spada said consistent cuts to Medicaid affect her organization’s ability to pay workers what they deserve. …

Pinecrest staffers face almost daily patient assaults in wake of cutbacks, officials say

Source: Mark Ballard, The Advocate, March 25, 2017
 
The state’s efforts to privatize and economize health care at the state’s remaining facility for the intellectually impaired have resulted in regular assaults on staff by patients, state officials have discovered.  Almost every day, sometimes several times a day, a mentally impaired resident at Pinecrest punches, bites or otherwise violently lashes out at the mostly middle-aged women who help the individuals dress, eat and function in the world. The sudden and dramatic increase in violent attacks is an unintended consequence of “real quick privatization,” says Louisiana Department of Health Deputy Secretary Michelle Alletto, whose responsibilities include the 95-year-old facility near Pineville. Looking to save money, the state slashed budgets, laid off personnel and in 2013 closed other public facilities, intending to send the bulk of the patients to small, privately-owned group homes in communities around the state where their needs could be addressed on a more individualized basis. Pinecrest Supports and Services Center got the rest. … Budget cuts in other state agencies limited programs that treated these individuals in the past.

… For the 12 months prior to Feb. 28, the staff filed 524 reports, required by workers compensation regulations, for incidents at the facility where three years ago virtually no violence took place. … Perry, an officer in the employees union, says worker’s comp forms are only the tip of the violence iceberg because no publicly available forms are filled out unless the “slap leaves a mark.”  Local 712 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees began collecting statements from its members that provide a little more detail. … Many of the statements collected by the union complained about how they are unprotected by police and, often, are removed from direct patient care. … But the staff has lost its patience, says James Ray, AFSCME field representative and a Methodist minister. “They always say be patient, it’s going to get better. But the state, as an employer, has a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace, which they are not doing,” he said.

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Health firms make privatization pitches
Source: Michelle Millhollon, Advocate, February 14, 2014

In an overheated Holiday Inn banquet room Thursday morning, business leaders made pitches for privatizing a $2 billion slice of the state’s health care business. United Healthcare, Amerigroup Louisiana, Louisiana Healthcare Connections and LifeShare Management Group are interested in managing the long-term care needs of 73,000 Medicaid-eligible people. The companies want to oversee the personal care, doctor’s visits, transportation, hospitalizations and other daily needs of people with disabilities, as well as those with age-related or adult-onset challenges.

DHH Wants More Medicaid Privatization, Stakeholders Hesitant
Source: Ashley Westerman, WRKF, November 5, 2013

The state Department of Health and Hospitals is taking preliminary steps to further privatize Medicaid in Louisiana. In August, DHH released a concept paper about reforms to long-term care for the developmentally disabled and low-income elderly.

In a nutshell, the department wants to bring in a private managed care organization – or MCO – to create a network of healthcare providers to serve those populations. Proponents of private MCOs claim they save money, cut down on fraud and improve the quality of care. The state Dept. of Health and Hospitals is looking to privatize the managed care for Medicaid patients with developmental disabilities and low-income elderly. Other stakeholders and advocates for the disabled and elderly throughout the state, for the most part, welcome reform but skepticism remains….

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Hospice owner sentenced to 6 years in $20 million SNF kickback scheme

Source: Emily Mongan, McKnight’s, March 9, 2017

The owner of an Illinois hospice company was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison on Tuesday for his role in a Medicare fraud scheme that paid kickbacks to nursing homes. Seth Gillman owned Passages Hospice LLC, which grew to be the largest hospice provider in the state before Gillman was charged in 2014 with inappropriately designating nursing home residents as hospice patients and overbilling for hospice services. Gillman also was accused of paying kickbacks to nursing homes that participated in the scheme, as well as providing residents of his family’s nursing home chain, Asta Healthcare, with fraudulent hospice services through Passages. Those residents often received services for years, far beyond the six-month cap in place for federal funding for hospice services, authorities said. The family of some former Passages patients told the Chicago Tribune that employees told them their loved ones were terminally ill, when they actually weren’t, in order to move them to hospice care or the more lucrative general inpatient care, or GIP. …

New York’s largest for-profit SNF operator kept nurses in ‘indentured servitude,’ lawsuit claims

Source: Emily Mongan, McKnight’s March 14, 2017

New York’s largest for-profit nursing home group allegedly kept more than 350 Filipino nurses in “indentured servitude” and sued those who tried to quit, according to a class action complaint filed last week. The complaint was filed against SentosaCare by former employee and registered nurse Rose Ann Paguirigan. She said she was recruited from the Philippines to work for SentosaCare and eventually signed a contract to work for a Staten Island facility operated by the provider. The contract stated that Paguirigan would be employed full time as a registered nurse and paid a base salary; instead, she was employed as an RN manager, given 35 hours of work each week and paid less than the wage stated in the contract. Similar contracts were signed by hundreds of other foreign nurses recruited by the company, although SentosaCare and its recruiter, Prompt Nursing Recruitment Agency, have “policies and practices” to not give foreign nurses full time work or pay them the prevailing wage, Paguirigan’s complaint states. The filing also claims that the provider maintains a “deliberate scheme, pattern and plan” meant to convince foreign nurses that they would “suffer serious harm” if they quit the company or tried to find work elsewhere. This scheme included a reported $25,000 penalty placed in the nurses’ contracts that they must pay if they left SentosaCare before the end of their contract term. …

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How N.Y.’s Biggest For-Profit Nursing Home Group Flourishes Despite a Record of Patient Harm
Source: Allegra Abramo and Jennifer Lehman, ProPublica, October 27, 2015

Charlie Stewart was looking forward to getting out of the nursing home in time for his 60th birthday. On his planned release day, in late 2012, the Long Island facility instead called Stewart’s wife to say he was being sent to the hospital with a fever. When his wife, Jeanne, met him there, the stench of rotting flesh made it difficult to sit near her husband. The small wounds on his right foot that had been healing when Stewart entered the nursing home now blackened his entire shin. … Doctors told Stewart the infection in his leg was poisoning his body. To save his life, they would have to amputate above the knee. Stewart had spent about six weeks recovering from a diabetic emergency at Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation & Health Care Center on Long Island. The nursing home is one of several in a group of for-profit homes affiliated with SentosaCare, LLC, that have a record of repeat fines, violations and complaints for deficient care in recent years.

Despite that record, SentosaCare founder Benjamin Landa, partner Bent Philipson and family members have been able to expand their nursing home ownerships in New York, easily clearing regulatory reviews meant to be a check on repeat offenders. SentosaCare is now the state’s largest nursing home network, with at least 25 facilities and nearly 5,400 beds. …

The decision maker in these deals is the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council, a body of appointed officials, many from inside the health care industry. The council has substantial leverage to press nursing home applicants to improve quality, but an examination of dozens of transactions in recent years show that power is seldom used. Moreover, records show that the council hasn’t always had complete information about all the violations and fines at nursing homes owned by or affiliated with applicants it reviewed. That’s because the Department of Health, which prepares character-and-competence recommendations for the council, doesn’t report them all. … Thirteen of SentosaCare’s homes (though not Avalon Gardens) have Medicare’s bottom score for nurse staffing. Inspection reports also show that at least seven residents have wandered away from the SentosaCare affiliated facilities in recent years — including one who froze to death in 2011. Inspectors and prosecutors have found that staff falsified records in some cases. Dozens of patients at SentosaCare homes have experienced long delays before receiving necessary care; some ended up in hospitals.