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.

Florida Moves to Shut Down For-Profit Residence After Finding Horrific Abuse and Neglect

Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, April 19, 2018

After another patient died under suspicious circumstances and reports surfaced of more instances of abuse and neglect, Florida regulators moved this week to shutter a for-profit school and residential campus for children and adults with severe developmental disabilities. The action Tuesday by Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities came after years of complaints that patients at the Carlton Palms Educational Center were violently mistreated by staff and subjected to physical restraints known as “wrap mats,” which resemble full-body straitjackets. Carlton Palms and its owner’s other facilities were the subject of a ProPublica investigation two years ago that chronicled the deaths of three teenaged patients, patterns of abuse and neglect, and company executives’ often-successful efforts to stave off regulation. …

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vFlorida Lawmakers Look to Roll Back Favored Status For For-Profit Group Home
Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, February 17, 2016

… The facility has enjoyed a special status — and higher Medicaid payments from the state — because of language embedded in Florida law. Until last year, law said the state should continue to contract with facilities licensed before 1989, when Carlton Palms was already in operation. Instead of needing to prove it offered the highest quality care in the most cost-effective way, Carlton Palms continued to get the state’s business automatically. The only way the state could have stopped doing business with Carlton Palms would have been for public officials to prove the facility had broken state laws or regulations. Last year, the Florida legislature passed a temporary provision to lift the obligation to work with Carlton Palms. But the measure, approved through a budget bill, expires in July.

Unrestrained
Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, December 10, 2015

While evidence of abuse of the disabled has piled up for decades, one for-profit company has used its deep pockets and influence to bully weak regulators and evade accountability.

Three years ago, it looked like the Florida agency that oversees care for children and adults with disabilities had finally had enough. It filed a legal complaint that outlined horrific abuse at Carlton Palms, a rambling campus of group homes and classrooms near the small town of Mount Dora.

A man called “R.G.” was punched in the stomach, kicked and told “shut your fucking mouth,” the complaint said. “R.T.” was left with a face full of bruises after a worker hit him with a belt wrapped around his fist. A child, “D.K.,” who refused to lie face down so he could be restrained, was kicked in the face and choked until, eyes bulging, he nearly passed out.

State officials wanted to bar Carlton Palms from accepting new residents for a year.

“[A] moratorium on admissions,” wrote a lawyer with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, “is necessary to protect the public interest and to prevent the continuance of conditions that threaten the health, safety and welfare of Carlton Palm’s (sic) residents.”

Two months later, the state backed down…..

What Happened to Adam
Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, December 11, 2015

It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos.

Cobo Center to save $200,000 annually by bringing janitorial services in-house

Source: Kurt Nagl, Crain’s Detroit Business, April 13, 2018

Cobo Center is on track to save around $200,000 annually on housekeeping by bringing those services in-house. The Detroit venue parted ways with The Professional Group, a janitorial services provider based in Detroit, last October and is pleased with the savings and performance of the restructured team, said Claude Molinari, general manager of Cobo. The venue’s budget for housekeeping this year is $1.75 million a year, which would mean a savings of 10 percent compared to the cost last year, Molinari said. Cobo, which is operated by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority and managed by SMG, had contracted with Detroit-based ABM Janitorial Services for several years prior to The Professional Group winning the bid in 2016. The Professional Group terminated the contract after one year. … Molinari said that under the new management structure the average wage of a full-time cleaner is $13.50 plus benefits — up from an average of $11.10 plus benefits before the new arrangement. …

Privatization: P3, SIB, ASD….huh?!

Source: Canadian Union of Public Employees, April 13, 2018

Privatization has many names. This guide cuts through the language that privatization promoters hide behind, to show what’s really at stake for our public services. It also lists some of the key privatization pushers, as well as the processes that governments and employers use to pave the way for privatization. …

Schools sign new janitorial contract

Source: Amelia Harper, Rocky Mount Telegram, April 16, 2018

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools now has a contract with a new janitorial service provider after spending more than a year trying to make the switch. The Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education voted Thursday to approve a nearly $2.5 million contract with Beck Education Services to provide cleaning services for 37 buildings owned by the school district. … According to the the termination document presented by the school board to SSC, several issues led to the contract termination. The document stated that an SSC manager had placed a custodial worker on a school campus without the required and contracted background checks, including criminal check, sex offender registry check or E-verify work authorization check, and was paying the individual “cash under the table.” The document also claims that the custodial company had been the cause of numerous complaints, primarily regarding lack of communication and the “failure to fill custodial staff vacancies within a reasonable time period.” Some school board members said Thursday that they had also heard employees of SSC express concerns over lack of training and the poor quality of cleaning supplies provided. …

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.

Whittier-area schools have new bus provider — it’s the high school district

Source: Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News, April 14, 2018

When Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, a 19-year-old special needs Whittier Union High student, died after being left inside a parked, hot school bus in 2015, his death sparked a movement that culminates with what is essentially a new bus provider for seven Whittier-area school districts. Whittier Union High School District has left the Pupil Transportation Cooperative, or PTC, which had been providing bus transportation since 1984. Instead, starting July 1, it will run the buses for all seven PTC member districts — East Whittier City, El Rancho, Little Lake, Los Nietos, South Whittier and Whittier City. … After his death, Lee’s family received $23.5 million in a settlement with the PTC. In turn, the PTC sued the high school district last year for partial compensation of the settlement. That lawsuit since has been dismissed. Now, with the contracts approved Tuesday, the changeover from the PTC to the high school district is nearly ready to go. …

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Bus Company to upgrade safety policies after death of special-needs student in Whittier
Source: Miriam Hernandez, ABC7 Eyewitness News, September 16, 2015

Immediate safety upgrades will be put into place by Pupil Transportation Cooperative following the tragic death of a 19-year-old man with special needs in Whittier, the company announced during a press conference Wednesday. … PTC will be pushing for electronic notification devices to be placed in school buses and two adults will now monitor every bus to ensure no student is left on board. … DeLapp said the substitute driver was a 10-year veteran who may not have known Lee’s limitations. Yet there is evidence the driver ignored what is characterized today as a standard child check procedure, which is spelled out in the bus operator manual. “Walk the entire length of the bus interior, front to rear, and check for students who may still be on board,” the manual states. DeLapp said the procedure was signed off, but yet Lee was still inside the bus. …

Special Needs Student Found Dead on School Bus May Have Been Waiting for Instructions: Family
Source: Hetty Change and William Avila, NBC Los Angelos, September 14, 2015

When family members learned that Lee had been left on a school bus on a hot Friday afternoon, they thought he may have stayed there waiting for a cue. The 19-year-old was found alone and unresponsive. Police could not revive him. Lee, or Paul to those who knew him, had a severe form of autism. Leslie Perez’s mom was his caregiver. She says her mom waited outside for Lee’s bus to drop him off at 3:30 p.m., like she does every afternoon, but it never showed up. Police found the adult school student lying in the aisle near the front of the bus parked in a Whittier school district parking lot. He was declared dead — less than two weeks before his 20th birthday — after lifesaving efforts failed. … It’s also unclear whether drivers with the bus company, Pupil Transportation Cooperative, are required to do head counts. Family members say a different bus driver had picked him up that morning.

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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The Roots of Privatization

Source: Matthew Wills, JSTOR Daily, April 23, 2018
 
The privatization of the pubic sector has been one of the defining policies of the world economy since the 1970s. State-owned utilities and monopolies have been sold off or transferred to the private sector on the neoliberal theory that “the market” is more rational and better able to manage such enterprises. Under the Pinochet dictatorship, Chile set the stage, moving towards privatizing the state in the 1970s. Under Thatcher, the U.K. began privatizing in the 1980s. The Spanish scholar Germà Bel addresses where the idea of privatization comes from. Neoliberalism, predicated on a primacy of the market, is the overarching ideology of privatization. …

A Troubled Accreditor’s Long-Term Outlook

Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, April 13, 2018

A national accreditor at the center of the collapse of two for-profit college chains got another lease on life after a court ruling kicked back to the Department of Education a 2016 decision withdrawing federal recognition and, later, the Trump administration restored that recognition pending further review. Even with another shot at restoring federal recognition, though, the long-term outlook for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools remains murky. … But some higher education observers believe that even if the department ultimately restores the accreditor’s recognition, it won’t be around for the long haul. That skepticism is due to the number of colleges that have already made moves to depart ACICS and to the damage the accreditor’s brand has sustained as regulators have scrutinized its failures in oversight. …

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DeVos Restores Recognition of For-Profit Accreditor Terminated by Obama Administration
Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, April 4, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a signed order Tuesday that she was restoring the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the for-profit accreditor that had waged a fight for reinstatement since the Obama administration withdrew its recognition in 2016. DeVos took the action in response to a federal district court judge’s ruling last month that former secretary John King failed to consider key evidence before terminating the recognition of ACICS. The ruling kicked back to the department final consideration of the accreditor’s fate. But it left unclear whether the department would review the original 2016 petition or the appeal filed by ACICS in 2017. That latter scenario would involve a more strenuous process for the accreditor as a body no longer recognized by the federal government. …

Court Win For Students Over Predatory For-Profit Colleges
Source: David Halperin, Huffington Post, February 21, 2017

Minutes ago, United States District Judge Reggie Walton denied a motion filed by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the U.S. Department of Education from proceeding with the de-recognition of the organization. ACICS needs Department recognition in order for the colleges it accredits to be eligible for federal student grants and loans. Judge Walton said in open court that ACICS had not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case, particularly because then-Secretary of Education John King determined in December that ACICS was in substantial noncompliance with the rules governing accreditor performance. … There were rumblings before the hearing that the new Trump-Betsy Devos Department of Education might back down and somehow try to reverse Secretary King’s decision, as lobbyists for predatory for-profit colleges have been openly and aggressively urging. It’s not at all clear how the Department could simply dump King’s decision; from the regulations it appears that ACICS would have to start all over again and re-apply. For today, at least, the Department of Justice, which represented the Secretary of Education in case, diligently and skillfully opposed ACICS’s motion. … ACICS has been the accreditor for some 240 institutions exclusively or primarily, and most of those are for-profit colleges. $4.76 billion in taxpayer dollars went from the Department of Education to ACICS schools in 2015.But ACICS has been the asleep-at-the-switch accreditor of some of the most notorious bad actors in the for-profit college sector, including Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech, Kaplan, EDMC (the Art Institutes), Career Education Corporation (Sanford-Brown), Alta Colleges (Westwood), Globe, FastTrain, and Daymar. …

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