Tag Archives: California

Valet workers transferred from UCLA fear insourcing, loss of benefits

Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, October 8, 2017
 
Edwin Cifuentes, a contracted valet worker at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said many valet workers who are being transferred away from UCLA are worried their new jobs will not offer them the same wages or benefits UCLA provided. … In August, UCLA ended its contract with ABM, a facility management company that employed valet workers like Cifuentes at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Although ABM had employed about 80 valet workers at the hospital, the university created about 35 in-house positions and has also hired part-time student workers.  Workers UCLA did not rehire are set to leave by Oct. 30, said Victoria Salgado, union organizer at American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest union. … Throughout the summer, ABM workers have protested the insourcing alongside AFSCME, including at the medical center in July and at the inaugural UC public law conference in September.  John de los Angeles, communications director for AFSCME, said when workers interviewed for the inhouse positions at UCLA, UCLA management discouraged workers from participating in union activities. In return, AFSCME issued a cease and desist letter in July. …

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UC employees, students protest in support of contracted valet workers
Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, July 31, 2017
 
About 500 University of California workers and students protested the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s treatment of contracted valet service workers outside the medical center Friday.  Valet service workers, who help park visitor and guest vehicles at the medical center, are contracted through ABM, a facility management company. Beginning in August, however, the hospital will lay off many valet workers because it will no longer be contracting out valet services, said hospital spokesperson Tami Dennis. Instead, it will offer in-sourced full-time, part-time and student positions. … John de los Angeles, communications director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299, the UC’s largest union, said the medical center would only offer 30 positions for the in-sourced program, even though the program currently employs 80 workers.  Several students and workers said they think the hospital will carry out the layoffs because the contract workers received a pay raise. …

Numerous violations cited at Sacramento foster care shelter campus

Source: Karen de Sá, Cynthia Dizikes, and Joaquin Palomino, San Francisco Chronicle, September 17, 2017

A Sacramento agency running one of the few remaining foster care shelters in California has violated health and safety laws and the personal rights of children more than 120 times in recent years — a number matched only by state-licensed facilities that have been shut down or placed on probation. State citations since 2012 at the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento describe poorly trained staff, mishandled medications and filthy dorms. This year, an employee was terminated for an “inappropriate relationship” with an underage client and for smoking marijuana with runaway foster youth. On Sept. 8, a state inspector was unable to remain in a bedroom because the stench of urine overwhelmed her. The privately run facility has a troubled history of poor performance it has not yet overcome. Three years ago, state regulators placed the Receiving Home on an extensive 12-month correction plan, after its failure to make earlier, promised reforms. … A Chronicle investigation published this year revealed additional hazards for youth placed at the facility. The report documented hundreds of questionable arrests on shelter campuses following minor misbehavior by foster youth. …

CalOptima Takes Mental Health Administration In-House

Source: Thy Vo, Voice of OC, September 11, 2017

CalOptima, the county’s health care plan for low-income and elderly residents, now will administer its own mental health care services, after the agency voted to phase out its $41 million-a-year contract with Magellan Health. The agency’s Board of Directors voted Sept. 7 to take administration of mental health services for a majority of the health plan’s members in-house, including responsibilities like contracting with mental health providers, processing reimbursement claims and overseeing therapy programs for patients with autism. Patients still will see outside specialists for treatment. This will be the third time in three years the agency has made a major change in the management of its mental health services, and the change comes just one year after the agency approved its original contract with Magellan. … CalOptima is the federal and state financed health plan for about 800,000 county residents, roughly a quarter of the population. … The change was prompted in part by a contract dispute between CalOptima and Magellan in July, which may have left some patients without mental health care for nine days when the company refused to process Medi-Cal payment claims. …

Escondido privatizes public library

Source: Sharon Chen, FOX5, August 24, 2017

The Escondido City Council voted Wednesday night to privatize the city library, ignoring pleas from hundreds of residents who turned out to oppose the move.
The City Council chamber was packed for the meeting, with the vast majority of attendees clearly concerned about the plan to turn the city’s library over to Library Systems and Services, a Maryland-based management company. … The management company has said that current library employees will be offered jobs. … In the end, council members were swayed by the city manager’s economic arguments and voted to approve the management contract, becoming the first community in San Diego County to privatize their public library.

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Opposition to Escondido library outsourcing grows
Source: J. Harry Jones, San Diego Union Tribune, August 9, 2017

Narly 200 angry residents were thrilled Tuesday afternoon when the Escondido Library Board of Trustees unanimously decided to recommend that the City Council not outsource the city’s library services to a private company. … Probably late this month during a meeting scheduled for Aug. 23, the council will decide whether to contract with Library Systems & Services (LS&S), a Maryland-based company that operates more than 80 public libraries around the United States. During the meeting, City Manger Jeff Epp sat quietly in the back of the library’s Turrentine room, which was packed with passionate opponents of the plan. Afterward, he said it has not yet been decided whether the city’s staff will suggest the council move forward with the outsourcing plan. … LS&S, the only private company in the country that offers such services, would replace roughly three dozen city library employees, although some of the longest-serving workers would be eligible for other city jobs. The rest would be given the option of working for the company, but without the many benefits that come with working for the city such as an attractive pension plan. …

Silicon Valley billionaire loses bid to prevent access to public beach

Source: Sam Levin, The Guardian, August 10, 2017

A California court has ordered a Silicon Valley billionaire to restore access to a beloved beach that he closed off for his private use, a major victory for public lands advocates who have been fighting the venture capitalist for years. An appeals court ruled on Thursday that Vinod Khosla, who runs the venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and co-founded the tech company Sun Microsystems, must unlock the gates to Martins Beach in northern California by his property.
The decision is a major blow to Khosla and other wealthy landowners who have increasingly tried to buy up the internationally celebrated beaches along the California coast and turn public lands into private property. …

California Today: Battle Over a Bill Reaches the State Senate

Source: Mike McPhate, New York Times, August 24, 2017

An intense debate is being waged in Sacramento over a proposal that would alter how crucial services are provided to Californians. Sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, the measure would require that counties adhere to a raft of new conditions before contracting out for services in health care, housing, public safety and other areas. …

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Editorial: California Democrats’ labor of love for unions
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2017

A union-backed bill to pad local government payrolls has been steadily diminished by those with the clout to fend off organized labor and its numerous friends in the California Legislature. The state’s cities got a reprieve from the bill en masse. So did San Francisco, the state’s only city and county, and Santa Clara County. All that’s left for the state Senate is to finish the job and kill this misbegotten bill altogether. … The bill’s onerous conditions leave little doubt that its intent is to discourage and eliminate private contracts in favor of expanding government payrolls and union membership. It threatens to needlessly inflate public spending and disrupt a range of services, many of them routinely provided by nonprofits serving the homeless, the mentally ill and other vulnerable people. A legislative analysis found that the bill would bring about “potentially major local cost increases or service reductions” and could affect “a broad array of services.” …

Bill benefits unions at expense of needy
Source: Senator Jeff Stone, August 18, 2017

Assembly Bill 1250, introduced by Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles, is a blatant power grab by the leadership of two of the largest public employee unions in California, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).  AB 1250 would virtually ban counties from contracting with nonprofits, licensed experts and community businesses for the vital services they provide Californians. It would do so by establishing a process so onerous and burdensome to comply with that it would make the contracting out process effectively impossible. …

Higher Rates, Missed Pickups: L.A. is Hearing a Rash of Complaints About its New Waste Removal System

Source: David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2017

Eight months ago, the Los Angeles City Council voted to overhaul the way trash is picked up at tens of thousands of businesses and large residential buildings, giving the work exclusively to a select group of companies. Backers of the program, championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, said the new system would increase recycling, roll out cleaner-fuel trash trucks and improve workplace safety for sanitation workers. But the new program, known as RecycLA, is not being universally welcomed by the businesses and residents who will rely on it for their trash pickup. In recent weeks, customers have begun complaining about soaring prices, uncollected trash and calls to their new waste hauling companies going unreturned. …

Justice Department moves forward in its case against ETMC, Paramedics Plus

Source: Roy Maynard, Tyler Morning Telegraph, May 12, 2017

The U.S. Department of Justice continues to build its case against East Texas Medical Center and its ambulance division, Paramedics Plus, in what they say is a $20 million kickback scheme to ensure Paramedics Plus retained lucrative contracts. Most recently, Justice Department attorneys filed a list of people they expect to depose in coming months. In all, more than 100 people could be deposed as this case moves forward. The government also filed a proposed schedule, which outlines when fact discovery will take place, when expert discovery will occur, deadlines for motions and trial preparation and finally, an expected timeframe for the start of the trial – summer of 2018. … In January, the Justice Department announced it would intervene in a lawsuit against ETMC and Paramedics Plus brought by a whistleblower – former employee Stephen Dean, who was Paramedics Plus chief operating officer. According to the suit, ETMC and Paramedics Plus paid more than $20 million in kickbacks and bribes, including cash payments to Oklahoma officials. …

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You Paid For It: Pinellas Commissioners discuss ambulance kickback settlement Tuesday
Source: Mark Douglas, March 21, 2017

Former U.S Attorney Brian Albritton told Pinellas County Commissioners Tuesday that a federal lawsuit alleging ambulance fee kickbacks could have cost taxpayers as much as $1 billion if they lost in court. Commissioners agreed to settle the case involving Paramedics Plus Sunstar ambulance service for $92,700 and to forgo an estimated $500,000 in uncollected ambulance fees from patients. They will also have to pay legal fees to Albritton who the county secretly hired last year to resolve the case. Pinellas commissioners discussed the case publicly Tuesday for the first time since Eight On Your Side first broke the story of alleged kickbacks and a federal investigation of Pinellas County’s ambulance contract last month. That settlement, signed March 7 by Vice-Chair Kenneth Welch, requires the county to pay $92,700 to federal prosecutors, the Florida Attorney General and attorneys for the whistleblower–a former executive with Paramedics Plus. It also requires Pinellas County to turn over all documents and evidence gathered in the course of the county’s own internal investigation, and to cooperate with an ongoing federal investigation and whistleblower action filed against Paramedics Plus in Texas.

… Since 2004, Paramedics Plus has operated as Pinellas County’s exclusive ambulance provider under the county-owned brand name Sunstar. The current county contract with Paramedics Plus amounts to about $50 million a year. In 2014, a former high-ranking executive of Paramedics Plus filed a whistleblower action in Texas that alleged an ongoing ambulance fee kickback scheme that stretched from Pinellas County to Oklahoma and California for over a decade. The scheme alleged by the whistleblower and federal prosecutors in a related legal action included so-called “profit cap” rebates that essentially funneled overcharges from Medicaid and Medicare to Pinellas County and other local governments that oversee public ambulance contracts. County leaders in Pinellas insist the “rebates” or “kickbacks’ in Pinellas totaled only $35,000 or so and ended up in county bank accounts, not someone’s pockets. In Oklahoma, the whistleblower suit alleges those kickbacks amounted to as much as $20 million. Federal prosecutors in Texas have cited specific acts of corruption in Oklahoma that include kickbacks, political payoffs and self-enrichment involving Paramedics Plus executives and government overseers in Oklahoma. … Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard says the settlement has no impact on the county’s ongoing $50 million a year contract with Paramedics Plus because the company has not been charged criminally or been found guilty of anything.

Feds Intervene in Alleged $20M Ambulance Kickback Scheme
Source: Eric Topor, Bloomberg BNA, January 27, 2017

A Texas health system paid an Oklahoma agency and its president $20 million in cash bribes in exchange for lucrative ambulance service contracts over 15 years, federal prosecutors said ( United States ex rel. Dean v. Paramedics Plus, LLC , E.D. Tex., No. 14-cv-203, complaint in intervention 1/23/17 ). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas partially intervened Jan. 23 in a whistle-blower lawsuit, filed under court seal in 2014, accusing East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System (ETMC) of paying the kickbacks to Oklahoma’s Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA). Specifically, the government said ETMC concocted the kickback scheme with EMSA president and co-defendant Herbert S. Williamson, and paid the kickbacks through checks, bank wires and inflated service contracts, mostly through ETMC’s ambulance service company, Paramedics Plus LLC. The government said it paid the defendants over $70 million in Medicare reimbursements and over $38 million in Medicaid reimbursements just from 2009 through 2013, and it was seeking treble damages on all payments tainted by the kickback scheme, plus monetary penalties for each individual false claim submitted. The FCA authorizes monetary fines of up to $11,000 for each false claim submission. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on whether criminal charges against Williamson would be coming in the future. … The complaint describes how Paramedics Plus, which contracted with the EMSA to provide ambulance services within the EMSA’s jurisdiction, was forced to “cut corners” due to the amount of its revenue that went to paying kickbacks. Paramedics Plus “avoided training and personnel expenses” to make sure enough money was available to pay kickbacks to the EMSA and Williamson, according to prosecutors. The complaint alleges Paramedics Plus executives were forced to forgo paying drivers and paramedics retention bonuses to stem high paramedic turnover because the company “would not have enough excess profits to make [Williamson] whole.”

3-year, no-bid extension for Alameda County’s ambulance contract, despite firefighter criticism

Source: Matthias Gafni, Bay Area News Group, May 10, 2017

Alameda County supervisors extended their ambulance contract with Paramedics Plus by three years despite fierce criticism by firefighters complaining the process wasn’t open for competitive bids and changes in service delivery were not included. … The agreement will lessen fines for failures to hit response times, saving the company about $3.5 million, along with other givebacks from the county, such as reimbursements for some 5150 (mentally unstable) transports and a continued break from paying support fees totaling about $5.5. million annually. The company has said it is bleeding money during its contract and needed the breaks, especially from the “draconian” fine system. Firefighters have complained that the extension should not have been awarded without a proper open bidding process. They believe ambulance service has suffered, and a change to the delivery system, similar to the Contra Costa County model pairing firefighters with private ambulance companies, is preferable. The vote came days after a judge dropped Alameda County from a federal lawsuit alleging it accepted illegal kickbacks from Paramedics Plus. The county was dropped from the suit because it agreed in April to pay $50,000 to the feds and $21,000 in attorney fees for accepting payments from the ambulance company. The company claims the agreement was legal. …

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Opinion: Contra Costa ambulance deal slightly helps response time, but has taxpayer risk
Source: Daniel Borenstein, Contra Costa Times, November 2015

The private-public partnership, apparently the first in California, is probably the best option available because it should slightly speed response time and reduce service duplication, and might enable the county to tap some federal dollars that would otherwise be lost. … But Contra Costans should realize that the plan carries downside financial risk and, contrary to some suggestions, probably won’t provide significant upside benefits for the beleaguered Contra Costa Fire Protection District for years, if at all. … An outside consultant, using current collection rates, estimates that the fire district will collect $39 million the first year and pay out, primarily to AMR, $37 million, netting a $2 million profit. But there are two major caveats. First, the consultant, former Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Chief Stewart Gary, warns in his analysis that declining numbers of patients with insurance to fully cover ambulance bills makes projections difficult and presents “one of the largest risks.” Second, the new venture will need about $9 million of seed money to cover early operations before bill payments start coming in. That advance will come from the fire district’s reserves and must be repaid.

Supes approve new cost-saving ConFire/AMR pact
Source: Martinez News-Gazette, July 26, 2015

In a search to further savings in a cash-strapped district, Contra Costa Fire has proposed a new partnership with its longtime ambulance provider, American Medical Response. ConFire will take over responsibility for billing and collecting insurance reimbursements as well as the liability if anticipated revenue doesn’t materialize. AMR will essentially function as a subcontractor providing ambulances and paramedics for a set fee. The new approach comes with added risks for taxpayers, but CityGate said that declining insurance reimbursements threaten all public agencies responsible for providing ambulance services. If private providers can’t turn a profit, they said, taxpayers could be asked to keep them afloat. Alameda County’s ambulance provider, Paramedics Plus, recently asked for an injection of $5 million of public funds to cover some of its losses. Contra Costa supervisors said they were still on board with ConFire’s plan and directed the county to proceed with negotiating a five-year contract that would take effect next year.

Union-backed bill to cut contractor work draws ire

Source: Kate Bradshaw, The Almanac, May 3, 2017
 
A California Assembly bill, backed by government unions, that would set limits on how cities contract for services has drawn vehement opposition, and some support, from Menlo Park residents who emailed the City Council in recent days. … Backed by union organizations – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, and the California State Council of the Service Employees International Union – the bill would require cities and counties to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of using city employees to do the job versus hiring a contractor. Government agencies would have to show that no city workers would be displaced, demoted or given fewer hours because of the contract. Also, the contractor would have to reimburse the city for the cost of the analysis. …