Tag Archives: Maryland

State’s health exchange settlement not a done deal

Source: Andrea K. McDaniels, The Baltimore Sun, July 23, 2015

The settlement announced this week between the state and Noridian Healthcare Services over Maryland’s bungled online health exchange is not quite a done deal. The $45 million deal must still be approved by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the U.S. attorney’s office for Maryland and the North Dakota insurance regulators, who oversee Noridian Healthcare’s parent company….Under the agreement worked out by Attorney General Brian Frosh and approved unanimously Tuesday by the board that oversees the exchange, Noridian will repay the state $45 million of the $73 million it was paid for building the flawed system. The online health insurance marketplace, created under the Affordable Care Act, never worked properly, delaying the applications of thousands of people without employer health care and in need of coverage….Massachusetts appears to be the only other state to have experienced technical difficulties that it has publicly settled with a main contractor. In that case, the state agreed to pay the company $35 million more to wind down operations; however, the Massachusetts attorney general launched an investigation of the troubled exchange that could recoup up to $12 million from CGI, a cap agreed to as part of the settlement, according to a Boston Globe report. Oregon remains in litigation with its main contractor and isn’t likely to settle soon…

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Noridian to pay $45 million to state, U.S. government for flawed exchange
Source: Josh Hicks, Washington Post, July 21, 2015

The prime contractor hired to build Maryland’s flawed online health exchange will pay $45 million to the state and federal governments to avoid a lawsuit over its performance, Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Tuesday. Maryland’s health exchange drew national attention last year when the Web site crashed moments after launching. It was plagued by glitches for months afterward. Noridian Healthcare Solutions agreed to pay $20 million upfront and an additional $25 million in annual installments of $5 million over five years, Frosh’s office said. The payments represent 61 percent of the total paid to the company, based in Fargo, N.D., for the development and launch of the Web site….

States that have struggled with healthcare sites consider lawsuits
Source: Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2014

Enrollments in the nation’s healthcare program have nearly concluded, but for states whose insurance exchanges have been crippled by technical problems, a difficult phase is just beginning: potential legal battles and a race to overhaul their systems before federal grant money dries up.

Officials in Oregon, Massachusetts and Maryland are exploring legal options as they sever contracts with those who created their sites. All three states are considering a move to the federal exchange, which had its own grievous start-up problems but is now largely stable, or licensing the technology of a more successful state such as Connecticut. …

…Two recent reports — an independent review commissioned by Kitzhaber and a federal “technical review” obtained by the Oregonian — outline potential legal arguments for the two sides. The federal technical review suggested that Oracle threw “bodies, rather than [a] skill set” at the website problems, but also found that the state exchange had no leverage in its contract “to make [Oracle] accountable” when things went wrong….

….In Maryland, where the state exchange board recently voted to end its $193-million contract with main contractor Noridian Healthcare Solutions, the question of blame has gone in circles. Last fall Noridian and one of its subcontractors, EngagePoint Inc., began fighting in court over the website failures. Shortly before the case moved to arbitration in late February, EngagePoint alleged that Noridian “lacked the expertise, resources and commitment actually required” to develop the website. Noridian said in a statement that EngagePoint’s claims were “false, unsupportable and will be contradicted by evidence” and pointed to hundreds of fixes that it had made in attempts to repair the system….

Maryland set to replace troubled health exchange with Connecticut’s system
By Mary Pat Flaherty and Jenna Johnson, Washington Post, March 28, 2014

Maryland officials are set to replace the state’s online health-insurance exchange with technology from Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, according to two people familiar with the decision, an acknowledgment that a system that has cost at least $125.5 million is broken beyond repair….

Vote to cut 63 public safety jobs delayed

Source: Pamela Wood, Baltimore Sun, July 16, 2015

All three members of the board — Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp — agreed to revisit the proposed job cuts at their next meeting in August. …. Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Council 3, said 21 of the job cuts would affect union employees. Some of the jobs slated to be eliminated are vacant. The union was officially notified on Wednesday, Moran said. “That’s not in the spirit of working together,” he said.
The department has said there are “long-standing issues” in human resources that need to be fixed. Under the proposal, human resources functions would be consolidated into five regional offices, rather than having HR employees in each prison.

Related:
Hogan, board defer Md. corrections job cuts
Source: Bryan P. Sears, The Daily Record, July 16, 2015

The three-member Board of Public Works delayed action on a proposal to cut 63 positions from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The proposal would represent the first job cuts under Gov. Larry Hogan, who agreed with the decision to defer the Thursday vote. Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot called for the deferral …

Dozens of corrections worker jobs to be cut
Source: David Collins, WBAL, July 16, 2015

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will lose dozens of jobs, and some workers are angry and scared, saying they consider the handling of the cuts a slap in the face…In January, Gov. Larry Hogan instructed his cabinet to cut agency costs by 2 percent. His press office issued an explanation, saying: “The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has around 11,000 employees and hundreds of open positions that need to be filled. Given the significant challenges DPSCS has faced in recent years, (Public Safety Secretary Stephen) Moyer and the administration are taking steps to overhaul the agency’s HR department in order to ensure that DPSCS can effectively carry out its mission.”

Cuts looming for half-dozen local prison jobs, 63 positions statewide
Source: Cumberland Times-News, July 16, 2015

Sixty-three positions, including a half-dozen local jobs, will be cut in the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services if Governor Larry Hogan gets his way…The job cuts in the DPSCS would reportedly save the state about $3 million and would eliminate a half-dozen jobs at the Western Correctional Institution and the North Branch Correctional Institution that are both located on U.S. 220 in Cresaptown.

“Culture Of Incompetence”: For-Profit Foster-Care Giant Is Leaving Illinois

Source: Aram Roston, BuzzFeed, April 17, 2015

National Mentor, a $1.2 billion company with a history of trouble at its homes for at-risk children, says departure from the state has “absolutely” nothing to do with a critical inspector general investigation… Investigators from the inspector general of the Illinois child welfare agency found that Mentor, the subject of a recent BuzzFeed News investigation, put two girls in the troubled home of a foster mother it oversaw even though she had previously committed fraud and had abandoned a 9-year-old special-needs foster son by leaving him at Mentor’s own office “without notice or explanation.” The girls, 11 and 12 years old, “frequently appeared dirty and unkempt,” the report said, and the older one regressed in school. … In February, BuzzFeed News examined problems at the company, including violent child deaths and sex abuse. In Maryland, a National Mentor foster father sexually molested foster son after foster son over an 11-year stretch. In Texas, in 2013, a 2-year-old named Alexandria Hill was murdered by her National Mentor foster mother, Sherill Small. Mentor’s problems in Texas were widespread: Mentor ranked dead last among large foster care providers, based on the rate of severe violations found by state inspectors. Over the last two years, Mentor racked up more “high” deficiencies — the worst kind — per home than any other provider with at least 200 homes. Former workers told BuzzFeed News that the search of high profit margins meant child safety suffered — a charge the company denies. … In Illinois, investigators also faulted Mentor for a key part of its business model. In several states, including Illinois, Mentor itself does not contract with the state. Instead, it works with a nonprofit, Alliance Human Services Inc., which wins the contract and pays much of the money to Mentor. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company explained that it uses this strategy “for states and local governments that prefer or choose not to enter into contracts with for-profit corporations” to provide foster care or other services. …

New county leader brings new perspective on privatization

Source: Bethany Rodgers, newspost.com, April 17, 2015

So apparently, it’s cheaper for the county to collect its own carcasses. That’s why — Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner on Wednesday explained — the county will no longer outsource its deer carcass removal operations. …. Returning these cleanup duties to the Division of Public Works and ending the private contract will save the county about $20,000 a year, Gardner said. And in her opinion, the example illustrates why relying on the private sector isn’t always the better, cheaper, faster option.

Medical battle behind bars: Big prison healthcare firm Corizon struggles to win contracts

Source: David Royse, Modern Healthcare, April 11, 2015

…Corizon, the licensed vocational nurse’s employer, is the nation’s largest for-profit provider of correctional health services. In February, Corizon and Alameda County together paid an $8.3 million settlement to Harrison’s family. It was the largest civil-rights wrongful-death settlement in California history. That was only the latest high-profile setback for Brentwood, Tenn.-based Corizon, which has lost five contracts with state prison systems over the past three years and is fighting to hold on to others. In New York City, some officials want to end Corizon’s contract in city jails because of quality-of-care concerns. The firm also is under pressure in Florida, where the head of the state prison system said she plans to rebid its healthcare contracts, including one with Corizon. In Washington, D.C., members of the District Council, citing litigation and complaints about Corizon services elsewhere, oppose the mayor’s push to approve a Corizon contract to serve the city’s inmates. There have been numerous allegations of quality problems with Corizon’s care raised in lawsuits and news reports around the country, including charges of long waits for care and prisoners dying after not being properly diagnosed with cancer and other diseases. Corizon staff reportedly gave a 19-year-old Florida inmate Tylenol for severe pain for months before outside doctors found bone cancer that later killed him. In New York City, an inmate allegedly was told to throw his severed finger away because it couldn’t be reattached, though it later was. Last August, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Corizon’s parent company Valitas. In issuing its negative outlook, Moody’s cited, in part, “operating headwinds due to recent contract losses.” ….

….According to a 2014 report by the Reason Foundation, only 14 states operate their own prison healthcare, while 36 contract for at least part of it and 24 have contracted out all prison healthcare services. There are no data on how many local jails use private medical vendors. Privately held Corizon became the largest correctional healthcare provider in 2011 when Valitas Health Services, parent of the former Correctional Medical Services, acquired America Service Group, creating a company serving more than 400 facilities. Valitas is majority-owned by Chicago-based private-equity management firm Beecken Petty O’Keefe and Co. Corizon had $1.4 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ended June 2014 and now cares for 345,000 inmates in 27 states. Competitors include Nashville-based Correct Care, which cares for about 250,000 people in 37 states, and Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health, which cares for 112,000 inmates in 13 states. Other providers include St. Louis-based Centurion Managed Care, a joint venture between Centene Corp. and MHM Services, and several other smaller for-profit and not-for-profit providers. Many of Corizon’s contracts are holdovers from its predecessor companies. Since the merger, it has won new contracts, including taking over Arizona’s state prison contract from Wexford and winning part of Florida’s business after a long court fight there over whether prison healthcare could be privatized. States spend $8 billion a year on prison healthcare, the Pew Charitable Trusts says. States spend $8 billion a year on prison healthcare, the Pew Charitable Trusts says. But since 2012, Corizon has lost statewide contracts covering 84,000 inmates in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. ….

Maryland Senate panel approves watered-down charter school bill

Source: Ovetta Wiggins and Jenna Johnson, Washington Post, March 31, 2015

A Maryland Senate committee voted Tuesday to approve a watered-down version of a bill proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) that was designed to increase the number of charter schools in the state. Hogan’s original bill made sweeping changes to the state’s charter law, giving schools the ability to hire and fire teachers, doing away with a requirement that charters fall under state collective bargaining rules and giving charters more say over who can attend. The amended bill does not change hiring rules, but it does provide some leeway on enrollment. It also offers some flexibility regarding certain state educational requirements for charter schools that have been in existence for at least five years, are in good financial shape and have a student achievement record that exceeds the local school system’s. Those charters would be exempt from specific requirements about scheduling, curriculum, and professional development. ….

Privatizing Public Housing: The “Genocide of Poor People”

Source: Toshio Meronek, Truthout, March 13, 2015

….San Francisco’s historically black Fillmore district was one of the casualties of an early federal redevelopment program, Urban Renewal. In the 1950s, Fillmore was known as the “Harlem of the West,” with a jazz scene that once hosted luminaries like John Coltrane and Billie Holiday….. Starting in the 1960s, City Hall forcibly bought or seized thousands of homes using eminent domain, eventually displacing about 17,000 people. After hearing these stories of black San Franciscans’ homes being demolished en masse, writer James Baldwin famously said in a TV interview that “urban renewal . . . means Negro removal.” The Fillmore’s redevelopment was one of the major city initiatives that caused San Francisco’s black population to drop by about 70 percent between 1970 and 2013. In 2009, the mayor’s office commissioned a study on black flight, finding that affordable housing was the top reason black people were leaving the city in droves. HOPE VI was President Clinton’s 1990s HUD project, which released funds to local developers to demolish dilapidated housing projects and build mixed-income units in their place. Theoretically, residents had a “right of return” – a guaranteed ticket into the revamped location once construction was complete. However, a study by the Urban Institute, a DC-based think tank, found only 19 percent of households studied returned to their HOPE VI-redeveloped homes…. Even more troubling, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that just one-sixth of demolished public housing units have actually been rebuilt, with no funds appropriated to build additional public housing for two decades. As the authors of “False HOPE” put it, HOPE VI resulted in “the wholesale destruction of communities” and “the displacement of very large numbers of low-income households of color.” San Francisco is the largest incubator for RAD, which according to HUD already lays claim to 13,000 units nationwide, with as many as 70,000 more on the way. Seventy-five percent of SF’s public housing units will be converted under the program within the next few years…..Baltimore is another RAD testing ground, and, as its Right to Housing Alliance ominously notes:

In 40 years, when the contracts with developers expire, the new owners will be able to convert the buildings to market -ate rents, forcing out low-income renters, essentially ending public housing . . .

Unsurprisingly, the real estate industry is thrilled. They see the dollar signs ahead, and have gone so far as to create a lobbying group called Lift the RAD Cap Coalition to push the privatization movement along. Under the cloak of an “interest in preserving affordable housing,” the Coalition hopes to expand RAD to convert all public housing into public-private partnerships, where they’ll potentially reap billions in government funding to build, manage and renovate housing that was previously government-run….

Related:
Congresswoman Maxine Waters condemns RAD public housing privatization scheme
Source: Lynda Carson, Bay View, December 31, 2014

…. In an effort to save public housing in Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco and nationwide, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the ranking member of the Committee on Financial Services in the House of Representatives, wrote a letter to President Obama on Dec. 10 condemning the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, or RAD. RAD is the latest attempt by the federal government to privatize and sell off our nation’s public housing stock to the multi-billion dollar so-called affordable housing industry.

HUD’s privatization scheme may herald end of public housing
Source: Rebecca Burns ∙ Al Jazeera ∙ November 13, 2014

At a time when a shortage of affordable housing is devastating low-income families, U.S. policymakers appear to have all but given up on the idea of a state-managed public housing system. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says more than $26 billion (PDF) is needed to repair the nation’s aging public housing, a backlog that has left many residents in deteriorating living conditions. Yet the notion that the solution lies in improved public funding and support — or that public housing should be publicly owned at all — has become a political nonstarter. Instead HUD is embarking on a sweeping privatization program in the name of renovation. After decades of demolitions and decay of public housing units, the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), a pilot program that purports to preserve existing housings units by providing access to more stable funding, could eradicate public housing as we know it within the next three decades. …. After decades of demolitions and decay of public housing units, the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), a pilot program that purports to preserve existing housings units by providing access to more stable funding, could eradicate public housing as we know it within the next three decades. …

RAD = Bad For Public Housing
Source: Daily Kos Labor, April 27, 2014

The Rental Assistance Demonstration program is a new privatization scheme being rolled out by (Housing & Urban Development) HUD, which faces a $26 Billion backlog in public housing repairs. 2.2 Million people live in public housing across the country, but it’s been underfunded since the 1970’s. Approximately, 10,000 public housing units are lost each year due to disrepair. The program will allow private developers to take over the managing and running of public housing. It will also allow developers to take out loans from private banks and investors to maintain the buildings. RAD is a pilot program, starting with 60,000 units across the country. RAD does protect some residents rights in its 200 page notice (PDF) but, it remains unclear how rights not covered in the document will be enforced….

With Revamped Code Website, Chicago Tackles ‘Ridiculous’ Municipal Problem

Source: Michael Grass, Government Executive, March 18, 2015

In many state and municipal governments, the general public must pay to access legislation, laws and regulatory codes. That’s often because, as GovExec State & Local detailed last summer, many governments don’t actually host their own public information and instead have contracts with companies to host that information on proprietary information platforms. Chicago has been one of a handful of municipal governments trying to change that and give the public easier access to public information. …. On Wednesday, ChicagoCode.org, which had been in beta testing since November 2013, was officially re-released. Since the beta site was released for public consumption, 45,000 people have accessed its information, according to the OpenGov Foundation, which worked with Mendoza’s office, the city of Chicago and its codification partner, American Legal Publishing, to execute the digital transformation of the city’s municipal code as part of The State Decoded project. That project, spearheaded by the OpenGov Foundation, has helped a handful of state and local governments create more accessible code websites, including the cities of Baltimore and San Francisco and the states of Florida, Maryland and Virginia….

Baltimore’s All-State Career School is in federal law-enforcers’ cross-hairs

Source: Van Smith, City Paper, Mobtown Beat, December 2, 2014

All-State Career School, a trade school in Baltimore for would-be truckers, healthcare workers, and others seeking a route to gainful employment, is apparently under federal criminal investigation for possible violations of U.S. Department of Education (DOE) regulations meant to ensure the lawful disbursement of federal student aid. The school, which receives city funds to help pay students’ tuition, is also one of 27 schools that, according to DOE data released in October, is not complying with requirements that for-profit schools derive less than 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid, out of almost 2,000 schools that fall under the regulations. …

Chasing Bail

Source: Sam Black, Sebastian Walker, & Abdulai Bah, Al Jazeera America, Fault Lines, May 24, 2014

Fault Lines examines America’s profitable bail bond industry, and investigates how money determines who goes free and who stays behind bars while awaiting trial. The number of Americans incarcerated before standing trial in a court of law—over 750,000 inmates—has never been higher. On any given day, nearly 70 percent of the national jail population is awaiting judgement—locked up without ever having been convicted of a crime. The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world that allows private companies to bail people out of jail at a profit. Bail bond companies earn $2 billion annually by getting people out for a fee. The majority of the accused remain behind bars because they cannot afford to pay for their release. Proponents of commercial bail say it provides a public service at zero cost to taxpayers. But what are the ultimate costs of the pay-for-freedom, pretrial process? Fault Lines travels to California, Maryland, and New York to examine how money determines the fates of those awaiting trial by the criminal justice system.