Category Archives: Medicaid/Medicare

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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Judge: IBM Owes Indiana $78M For Failed Welfare Automation

Source: Associated Press, August 7, 2017

A judge has ruled that IBM Corp. owes Indiana $78 million in damages stemming from the company’s failed effort to automate much of the state’s welfare services. … Indiana and IBM sued each other in 2010 after then-Gov. Mitch Daniels cancelled the company’s $1.3 billion contract to privatize and automate the processing of Indiana’s welfare applications following numerous complaints. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled last year that IBM breached its contract. The justices affirmed a lower court’s award of nearly $50 million to IBM in state fees, but that ruling allowed Indiana to seek more than $172 million in damages from IBM.

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IBM contests judge’s removal petition in welfare-privatization suit
Source: Dave Stafford, Indiana Lawyer, May 25, 2016

The state’s petition to remove a trial court judge who oversaw the civil lawsuit over the canceled $1.3 billion contract with IBM to overhaul Indiana’s welfare system is “factually incorrect,” according to an attorney representing IBM. Andrew Hull of Hoover Hull Turner LLP said in a statement that Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer did nothing to merit removal and didn’t violate Indiana Trial or Appellate Rules in an order issued on remand from the Indiana Supreme Court, as Barnes & Thornburg LLP lawyers representing the state argued in briefs filed Monday. Their petitions and brief seeking writs from the Supreme Court argue Dreyer overstepped his authority by issuing the order without proceedings, called into question his impartiality in the matter, and asked the court to vacate his order on remand and bar him from issuing further orders in the case.

Indiana Seeks New Judge After No Damages Awarded in IBM Case
Source: Rick Callahan, Associated Press, May 10, 2016

Attorneys for the state are challenging a judge’s decision not to award Indiana damages in its long-running fight with IBM Corp. over the company’s failed effort to privatize state welfare services, saying a new judge should be appointed to handle the case. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in March that IBM had breached its $1.3 billion contract to automate much of Indiana’s welfare system. The high court directed the trial court judge to determine what damages IBM owed the state, opening the door for Indiana to seek up to $175 million. But on Friday, that judge, Marion County Superior Court Judge David Dreyer, ruled that “the costs for which the State seeks reimbursement were not adequately proven, and thus cannot be recovered as damages.” The state’s private attorneys in the case quickly filed a motion seeking a new judge to oversee the case. … The resulting lawsuits between Indiana and IBM were assigned to Dreyer, who found in 2012 that Indiana had failed to prove IBM breached its state contract and awarded the New York-based company about $50 million in state fees. Indiana appealed that ruling, and the state Court of Appeals found in February 2014 that IBM had committed a material breach of its contract by failing to deliver improvements to the state’s welfare system. But it also found IBM was entitled to nearly $50 million in state fees.

Mediation coming in IBM, Indiana contract dispute
Source: Associated Press, December 10, 2014

IBM Corp. and the state of Indiana are turning to mediation in hopes of settling their dispute over IBM’s failed attempt to privatize Indiana’s welfare services. The two parties said in a Monday court filing with the Indiana Supreme Court that they have agreed to mediation and chosen John R. Van Winkle of Indianapolis-based Van Winkle-Baten Dispute Resolution to hear their differences at a Feb. 25 mediation session. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the welfare-privatization contract dispute on Oct. 30. The following week, Chief Justice Loretta Rush suggested that the parties consider mediation “to seek a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute.” Rush’s order also said that if mediation failed, the court would move ahead to reach a decision in the long-running dispute.

Appeal of IBM-deal fees heard
Source: Niki Kelly, Journal Gazette, November 26, 2013

The fallout from the failed $1.3 billion IBM welfare modernization contract continued Monday as the Indiana Court of Appeals heard arguments over $100 million in disputed fees. … Attorney Peter Rusthoven, representing the state, said the system was plagued with problems from the outset and IBM refused to hire more people to add to the “human dimension.” …. But attorney Jay Lefkowitz, on behalf of IBM, pointed out that Indiana was trying to hire IBM to run the new hybrid system up until the day the company was terminated.

IBM, state in court Monday
Source: Tim Evans, Indianapolis Star, November 20, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Monday in the legal battle over a $52 million judgment the state has been ordered to pay IBM over the failed attempt to privatize public welfare services under former Gov. Mitch Daniels. …. The state is appealing a Marion Superior Court judge’s 2012 ruling awarding $52 million to IBM after the state canceled a contract Daniels had hailed in 2006 as the solution for fixing one of the nation’s worst welfare systems. …. “Neither party deserves to win this case,” he wrote in his 65-page ruling. “This story represents a ‘perfect storm’ of misguided government policy and overzealous corporate ambition. Overall, both parties are to blame, and Indiana’s taxpayers are left as apparent losers.”

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Part of food stamp website offline for two weeks
Source: Tony Cook, Indianapolis Star, November 6, 2013

Earlier this year, state contractor RCR Technology wrongly released the private information of Indiana welfare recipients. Now, part of the state’s benefits website administered by the company is broken. …. The problems come just four months after revelations that RCR wrongly revealed private data of FSSA clients, including Social Security numbers. … RCR was initially an FSSA subcontractor, but was later elevated to prime contractor after Gov. Mitch Daniels fired IBM over a botched 10-year, $1.37 billion deal to overhaul the state’s welfare system, Gavin said.

Ind. court sets hearing on IBM welfare lawsuit
Source: Associated Press, September 3, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals has set a November hearing in the state’s legal fight with IBM Corp. over a failed attempt to overhaul Indiana’s welfare system. The state is appealing a Marion County judge’s ruling last year awarding $52 million to IBM after then-Gov. Mitch Daniels canceled what was a 10-year, $1.37 billion contract to process applications for food stamps, Medicaid and other programs….

The Unequal State of America: Indiana’s rocky road to welfare reform
Source: David Rohde and Kristina Cooke, Reuters, December 20, 2012

In 2006, Gov. Mitch Daniels privatized the management of the welfare-benefits system with a project led by IBM. Two-thirds of Indiana’s social-service agency’s staffers became employees of IBM and its partners. In a process dubbed “welfare modernization,” recipients would apply for benefits online and by phone rather than meeting social workers face to face. It was, by Daniels’s own admission, a failure…..

JEditorial: Human toll of FSSA deal laid bare
Source: Journal Gazette, July 24, 2012

Editorial: Decision to privatize state welfare system a mistake from start
Source: Evansville Courier & Press, July 22, 2012

Judge denies Indiana claim over failed IBM project
Source: Charles Wilson, Associated Press, July 18, 2012

A judge on Wednesday spurned Indiana’s efforts to recoup roughly $170 million from IBM Corp. over its failed effort to overhaul the state’s welfare system as part of a broader privatization push that was an early hallmark of Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ tenure. Marion County Judge David Dreyer said in a 75-page order that neither side deserved to win the dispute, and awarded IBM only a small fraction of what it was seeking. … Dreyer blamed “misguided government policy and overzealous corporate ambition” for the failure of the system, which he called an “untested theoretical experiment.” … Dreyer said Indiana failed to prove that IBM breached its contract, and he denied the state any of the money it sought.

IBM questions Daniels’ resistance to deposition
Source: Carrie Ritchie, IndyStar.com, December 19, 2011

In court, state and IBM spar over welfare system’s design
Source: Carrie Ritchie, Indianapolis Star, March 9, 2012

IBM to begin making case in welfare trial
Source: Indianapolis Star, March 21, 2012

IBM: Indiana canceled deal because of budget woes
Source: Associated Press, April 3, 2012

IBM, state in final arguments at welfare system trial
Source: Carrie Ritchie, Indianapolis Star, April 3, 2012

Judge orders Gov. Daniels be deposed in IBM lawsuits
Source: Carrie Ritchie, IndyStar.com, December 16, 2011

A judge has ordered Gov. Mitch Daniels to share his knowledge of a canceled $1 billion contract with IBM to help resolve a legal battle between the state and the company.

Attorneys for the state had said a law protects Daniels and other high-ranking state officials from testifying….

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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Michigan begins to design 4 pilot projects to test mental health integration

Source: Jay Greene, Crain’s Detroit Business, August 4, 2017

What is going on at the Michigan health department about designing four pilot programs to test a controversial plan to combine physical and behavioral Medicaid services among mental health agencies, providers and HMOs? So far, nothing, at least on the selection and design of the pilots. … Section 298 is a controversial budget section that, under Snyder’s original plan put forth in early 2016, would have allowed some of the state’s health plans to manage the $2.6 billion Medicaid behavioral health system. The Medicaid HMOs already manage a nearly $9 billion physical health system. Over the past two years, Michigan’s 11 Medicaid health plans have lobbied legislators and the public to try a semi-privatized approach under Snyder’s plan, which was finally approved in June. … Republicans in Michigan want to test the concept in four pilot projects that everyone believes will be Kent County, an urban area like metro Detroit, a northern Michigan rural area and in western Michigan, which could include Kalamazoo County, sources tell me. Lori said the state has not received any formal suggestions for where the four pilots would be located. …

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Plan to privatize Mich. mental health aid advances
Source: Karen Bouffard, Detroit News, June 20, 2017
 
The first step in a plan to turn control of Michigan’s $2.6 billion mental health budget over to privately owned insurance companies is poised for inclusion in next year’s state budget, despite a wall of opposition from mental health providers, patients and families across Michigan.  The contentious plan is embedded in two provisions of the state budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, part of the Omnibus Budget bill approved by the state House on Tuesday expected to be approved by the state Senate on Thursday. …

Lobbying ramp-up precedes mental health funding proposal
Source: Justin A. Hinkley, Lansing State Journal, April 27, 2017

Physical health insurers ramped up lobbying operations and far out-spent their behavioral health counterparts in the months before lawmakers pulled an about-face on who should manage billions of Medicaid dollars for mental health services. Community mental health groups and allied advocacy groups spent about $52,400 on lobbying in 2016, nearly $8,700 more than their average from the previous three years, state records show. That happened as they fought to maintain management of Medicaid money for behavioral health. However, lobbyists for the private insurers who currently manage Medicaid dollars for physical health spent a combined nearly $838,000 last year, about $21,000 more than their previous three years’ average as they seek to take over the mental health dollars. … That ramp-up happened as lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration changed positions on the Medicaid issue — to the benefit of the physical health insurers. In February 2016, Snyder called for the private health management organizations who oversee physical health spending to also take over mental health money by Oct. 1, 2016. Lawmakers denied that proposal and instead asked the administration to study the issue and make recommendations by spring 2017. The administration did that last month, changing its position from 2016 and calling for the two funds to remain under separate management. Last week, however, lawmakers in the Senate advanced a budget proposal that would give the mental health money to HMOs by 2020. …

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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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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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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. …

$2M savings may result in $42M loss for La. Medicaid

Source: David Hammer, WWL, March 8, 2017

When former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration ended a $2 million debt-collection contract in 2014, nobody batted an eye. After all, the state faced a mind-blowing $1.6 billion budget deficit and welcomed any bit of spending that could be cut. But that small savings may have actually created a $42 million loss for the state’s federally funded Medicaid program over the last two years. That’s more than the $40 million the Legislature recently had to slash from the Health Department to cover yet another budget shortfall. By letting a contract with New York-based HMS expire in December 2014, the state went more than 14 months without anyone identifying and recovering money for Medicaid bills that should have been paid by third parties – like an auto insurance company on the hook for a Medicaid recipient’s health expenses after a crash, or a private health insurance plan that should have covered an illness but didn’t, instead leaving Medicaid, the taxpayer-funded payer-of-last-resort, holding the bag.

.. When Gov. John Bel Edwards took over last year, his Department of Health was facing $29 million in these uncollected third-party liabilities. And the former contractor responsible for collecting third-party liabilities, HMS, was embroiled in a trade-secret lawsuit with a competitor, Public Consulting Group Inc., which was also seeking the collection contract in Louisiana. Finally, Public Consulting Group settled the lawsuit last year and agreed to not compete with HMS for contracts for seven years. Louisiana rehired HMS under a $2.1 million emergency contract last summer. According to a state legislative audit, HMS estimated the uncollected amount of third-party liabilities at $42 million by the end of 2016, but because of the large gaps in collections work, the Department of Health couldn’t be sure of that figure. … But the audit also identified $18 million in receivables the state may never be able to recover. … There was some hope that by shifting to what’s called a managed-care payment system, the state’s Medicaid program wouldn’t need to pay a company like HMS to collect third-party liabilities; the private managed care organizations hired by the state to make Medicaid payments would take care of that duty. But a significant portion of Medicaid costs in Louisiana are still paid under the old fee-for-service model, without a private managed care organization acting as a middle man. …

Report: Privatized Medicaid program serves fewer people, costs more

Source: Brian M. Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle, February 12, 2017

The privatization of a state program that transports poor Texans to medical appointments has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars more while serving fewer than half as many people, according to a Legislative Budget Board report that some officials tried to withhold from the public. In the five years since Texas began privatizing the management of the Medical Transportation Program, the number of Medicaid recipients using the program has dropped from 350,000 to 150,000, the number of substantiated complaints has doubled, administrative costs have quadruped and the overall per-ride cost to the public has nearly tripled, the report authors found. The privatization effort was designed to reduce fraud, and anti-fraud measures may have caused some of the drop in users. Still, the budget board found, privatization has left out thousands of people and cost taxpayers an estimated $316 million more than would have been spent if the state still was running the program. Despite the problems, and in spite of a promise to put the program out for bid again, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission recently renewed all of the contracts until 2018, the budget board report noted. The problems were caused, in part, by a sloppy procurement process, the report concluded. The Health and Human Services Commission solicited applications from companies to manage different regions of the state, but it picked several firms that its own evaluators had determined were not the best options, according to the report’s authors. …

Read the full report.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy locks the door on California Medicare activists

Source: Vergil Lewis, People’s World, January 30, 2017

Nearly 1,000 people from all over the state of California descended on the Bakersfield office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Friday to demand that he drop plans to privatize Medicare and Medicaid and instead “protect, improve, and expand” these programs that are so vital to people in his district and across the country. … Speakers at the rally included healthcare workers, patients, teachers, and representatives of several unions, including the California Nurses Association, United Domestic Workers, and United Farm Workers. Latinos were especially well represented, including patients and workers from the Clínica Monseñor Oscar Romero. … Surgical nurse Sandy Reding of the California Nurses Association reported often seeing patients who require surgery because they had to choose between putting food on the table and paying for medications or seeing a doctor. Editha Adams of United Domestic Workers (UDW), a union representing 98,000 home care workers in the state, noted that 61 percent of home care funding for seniors or others needing it comes from Medicare and Medicaid, so that any move that restricts funding or access to these programs directly threatens their clients who cannot manage without the services they provide. …

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Brown Vows to Fight to Protect Medicare from Privatization Attempts That Would Hurt Millions of Ohio Seniors
Source: Senator Sherrod Brown, Press Releae, November 30, 2016

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today vowed to protect Medicare from privatization attempts that would erode the care Medicare provides to more than two million Ohio seniors. … “Congressman Tom Price – who has been nominated as HHS Secretary – has supported Speaker Paul Ryan’s privatization plan that would yank care away from Ohio seniors and our most vulnerable, and replace it with meaningless vouchers that will take money out of the pockets of Ohio seniors and hand it over to Wall Street,” said Brown. “This is also the same crowd that has tried to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Folks like Tom Price and Donald Trump who wear suits and work in this town might be able to work until 67, but tell that to waitresses and nurses and steelworkers who work on their feet all day.” Brown also stressed the need to protect Social Security from privatization. “Soon I will be introducing a bill that will protect and expand Social Security – because we know when this crowd goes after Medicare, Social Security can’t be far behind,” said Brown. …

Democrats will hold firm against Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, Pelosi vows
Source: Greg Sargent, Washington Post, November 21, 2016

In an interview with me, House Dem leader Nancy Pelosi argued that history might repeat itself, if House Speaker Paul Ryan — with Donald Trump’s blessing — makes good on his hints to press forward with his plans to privatize Medicare. Pelosi vowed that Democrats would remain united in the battle to stop Ryan’s plan, a goal she described as crucial to defeating it, just as unity enabled Dems to block Bush’s Social Security plan. … In that 2005 fight, Pelosi recalled, Democrats actively avoided developing an alternative plan to Bush’s. Instead, Democrats said their plan was to defend Social Security, a very popular government program.  At the time, some Democratic strategists warned against uncompromising opposition. But the gamble paid off. Observers noted that Bush’s plan sank in popularity as Dems remained unified behind a refusal to budge in defense of Social Security, a move that was widely credited with helping to put Dems on track to winning back Congress in the 2006 elections. Pelosi argued that if Republicans did try to privatize Medicare, it would afford a chance to underscore “the difference between Democrats and Republicans” at a time when Democrats are trying to regain their footing after this year’s loss. “This is such a stark difference that people know we have to be unified,” Pelosi said. … Opponents of Ryan’s plan argue that, since these voucher payments would not rise as fast as health care costs, it would merely save money by forcing seniors to pay more out of their own pockets over time. They also point out that Obamacare has already improved Medicare’s fiscal outlook. It’s unclear whether Trump will go along with Ryan’s plan — doing so would require Trump to reverse himself on his campaign promise not to touch entitlements. But Trump does not appear to care as deeply about this debate as Ryan long has, and it’s reasonable to surmise he might be willing to go along with Ryan’s plan in exchange for other things he wants. …

Paul Ryan is determined to gut Medicare. This time he might succeed
Source: Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2016

Bursting with the policymaking power that control of both houses of Congress and the White House gives Republicans, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has lost no time in teeing up a favorite goal: gutting Medicare.  In an interview with Fox News Channel last Thursday, Ryan said: “Obamacare rewrote Medicare … so if you’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well. … What people don’t realize is that Medicare is going broke, that Medicare is going to have price controls. … There’s no secret about what specifically Ryan has in mind. He intends to replace traditional Medicare, an efficient program offering guaranteed treatment and featuring rock-bottom administrative costs, with a privatized program. Seniors would get a federal voucher to help them pay premiums charged by commercial insurance plans. Ryan calls this system “premium support.” … Ryan’s plan would do nothing to rein in healthcare costs, but would likely increase them, in part because Medicare beneficiaries would be saddled with paying not only for their care, but for the shareholder dividends and executive pay of private insurance companies. The savings Ryan touts would be illusory: They would merely be shifted from government to seniors. … Medicare faces fiscal problems, but it’s not going broke, and according to both the Medicare trustees and the Congressional Budget Office, the Affordable Care Act has in fact alleviated those problems rather than caused them. The trustees reported in 2010 that passage of Obamacare had postponed the projected exhaustion date of the Medicare trust fund by 12 years — to 2029 from 2017. Projections of Medicare spending growth have consistently come down, year after year, at least in part due to changes in the program imposed through Obamacare. The program’s fiscal situation would be “substantially improved,” the trustees said, because the ACA instituted new cost controls and provided new tax revenues for the program. Both those features would disappear if the GOP repeals the ACA, as is its intention. …