Wednesday, October 6, 2010

All Hail The Florida Whistleblowers!

Taking the time to disperse Medicaid fraud news is more than exposing the fraud schemes, it also praises the brave and brilliant individuals who embark on such endeavors.

To Barry Cohen and his associates, I thank you for believing.

Petition says McCollum gave WellCare a break in fraud case

TAMPA - Attorney Barry Cohen claims in a new court petition that Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is so tainted by campaign cash from WellCare  Health Plans and [here are the foster care Targeted Case Management programs!] that he shouldn't be involved in a massive settlement with the insurer.
Cohen's law firm is representing Sean Hellein, a former WellCare financial analyst, in a whistleblower suit against the Tampa-based company.
Hellein claims WellCare conspired over several years to defraud the federal government, Florida and six other states out of at least $400 million. [It's more than that!!!] He said WellCare got the money through Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income people.
WellCare has reached a potential deal to settle with the U.S. Department of Justice for $137.5 million. But Cohen and Hellein say the amount is too low and would allow WellCare to keep two-thirds of its ill-gotten gains.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Cohen sought to link McCollum to what he called the state's failure to aggressively pursue WellCare. Cohen filed a petition asking the Florida Supreme Court to block McCollum from the proposed settlement.
The petition said that when he ran for attorney general in 2006, McCollum received $9,000 in direct contributions from WellCare. The figure is supported by a Tribune search of online campaign finance records.
But the petition said McCollum also benefited from more than $800,000 in contributions that WellCare provided to the Republican Party of Florida. The money was turned over to McCollum's campaign, the petition said.
The petition cites Republican Party contributions to McCollum's campaign that occurred within days of a large WellCare contribution to the party. Most money went to McCollum's campaign for attorney general, not his recent unsuccessful run for governor.
As attorney general, McCollum heads a unit that investigates Medicaid fraud.
Ryan Wiggins, a spokeswoman for McCollum's office, declined to comment on the allegations, saying, "We are waiting on further direction from the court."
Daniel Conston, spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, denied any contributions were earmarked for McCollum.
"I'd chalk this up to one of many absurd allegations thrown around in politics today," Conston said. "The RPOF simply does not earmark contributions, nor would a contribution cause a GOP leader to turn a blind eye to a potential crime."
The petition said the contributions help explain why McCollum failed to investigate exactly how much WellCare improperly received from Florida, and why McCollum did not object when Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Andrew Agwunobi as head of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
Agwunobi served on WellCare's board of directors before taking the job at AHCA.
McCollum also looked the other way when legislators drafted a bill that might have helped WellCare but hurt the public, the petition said.
It happened when WellCare faced a $23 million repayment to the state of Florida for overcharging its Medicaid fund. WellCare successfully lobbied for legislation to head off future repayments but Crist vetoed the bill containing the measure.