Feds join suit against UnitedHealth Group for overcharging Medicare million$

❝ The U.S. Justice Department has joined a whistleblower lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group Inc that claims the country’s largest health insurer and its units and affiliates overcharged Medicare hundreds of millions of dollars, a law firm representing the whistleblower said on Thursday…

❝ The lawsuit, filed in 2011 and unsealed on Thursday, alleges UnitedHealth Group overcharged Medicare by claiming the federal health insurance program’s members nationwide were sicker than they were, according to the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP.

The Justice Department has also joined in allegations against WellMed Medical Management Inc, a Texas-based healthcare company UnitedHealth bought in 2011…plus several more affiliates who say they can’t imagine why they’re accused of being co-conspirators.

❝ The lawsuit by whistleblower Benjamin Poehling, a former UnitedHealth executive, has been kept under seal in federal court in Los Angeles while the Justice Department investigated the claims for the past five years.

The wheels of justice in America grind exceedingly slow in those rare circumstances when they’re set upon corporate theft and fraud.

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Pentagon paid for a report on wasted taxpayer dollar$ – It’s so bad they’re trying to hide it, now!


Click to enlargeDavid B. Gleason Photo

❝ In a bombshell article, The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon hired an outside consulting firm to identify ways to streamline its bureaucracy. It turns out the American military needs a lot of back-office support to keep running and that’s where most of the waste, fraud and abuse piles up.

The consultants did their job and identified $125 billion worth of unnecessary spending. The recommended plan called for some simple, common-sense changes such as making early retirement more attractive, streamlined information technology departments and cutting back on civilian contractors.

If the U.S. military made these changes, it could save more than a hundred billion in taxpayer dollars over five years…So…the suits at the Pentagon buried the report out of fear Congress would use it to cut the defense budget…

“We’re spending a lot more money than we thought,” reads the first line of the report.

No shit. But here’s the thing, for the people who spend their days watching the Pentagon for waste, fraud and abuse neither the report nor its suppression came as a surprise.

“This report confirms what anyone who’s paying attention already knows: there are a lot of opportunities to increase efficiency and effectiveness without increasing spending,”…Mandy Smithberger of the Project on Government Oversight…

She’s right. Budget hawks have long known that the Pentagon’s $600 billion plus annual budget is rotten to the core…

❝ The Pentagon’s property management division employs 192 thousand people, yet has no idea how much property it owns nor how much it’s worth. Existing best estimates say the U.S. military owns half a million properties on 30 million acres across the globe.

It’s worth — the Pentagon accountants think — around $800 billion total. Worse, as of a 2014 according to the Government Accountability Office, the property managers have literally no idea what’s going on in half those buildings.

The United States Department of Defense [sic] is the largest single employer on Earth. They pay little more than lip service to the kinds of efficiency many long-standing government agencies offer. When the Pentagon echos the Republican lying mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs…” they mean jobs for themselves, their kin, their retirement, their individual and personal investments, commitments, to suppliers.

RTFA for a quick journey through the fiscal corruption of our military-industrial complex. Incidentally, you’ll find a link to the actual 77-page report inside the article. It’s been removed from any featured spot on any DOD website; but, it’s still up and alive.

Paul Ryan’s tax plan ends up giving 100% of Its benefits to the top 1%

File this one under “too good to check.” Max Ehrenfreund passes along the latest analysis of Paul Ryan’s tax proposal from the Tax Policy Center and notes that by 2025 it gets a wee bit lopsided:

blog_republican_tax_plan_one_decade

This is like a parody of Republican tax proposals. In its first year, the top 1 percent start off getting a mere 76 percent of the benefit….Within ten years they get nearly 100 percent of the benefit. Ryan and the congressional Republicans manage this by giving the poor and middle class nothing and actually taking money away from the upper middle class. The only people who benefit are the rich and the really rich.

As for the really, really rich, the top 0.1 percent get an average tax break of $1.4 million, while the rest of us get about $3 trillion in extra federal debt and no long-term change in economic growth. What a deal.

More craptastic politics from the least productive hacks in Washington, DC. I honestly think Ryan trots his spreadsheet out with a new set of lies every couple of years just so Congressional Republlicans can say, “look, we have a proposal!” – even though it’s about as useful as a new crutch to someone who just had his legs amputated.

Missouri coppers on top of law’n order — Naked couple arrested on stolen mower

Jasper County sheriff’s Det. Tim Williams said a 55-year-old Larry Webster and 40-year-old Tanya Hopper admitted that they rode the lawn mower home naked after their clothing was stolen while they skinny dipped in a creek northwest of Joplin.

Authorities arrested the pair Tuesday morning on suspicion of stealing after finding them at a house with the riding mower parked in the front yard.

Williams says an investigation determined that the lawn mower didn’t belong to either of them.

I suppose they should have returned the mower right after they got home and dressed. Or something like that.

Just in case you were worried taxpayers weren’t providing Israel with enough weapons…?

The White House on Friday told members of Congress that it had offered to substantially sweeten a decade-long military aid package for Israel

Under the proposed terms, the United States would insist that the Israelis use the tens of billions of dollars they receive under the deal to buy United States-made goods and services, rather than spend a sizable portion in their own country as they are permitted to do now.

The administration laid out details of the package in a lengthy letter to senators who had written to the White House in April urging the completion of a new aid deal…

In the letter…Susan Rice…national security adviser, and Shaun Donovan…director of the OMB, said that the administration was prepared to increase the existing military aid package for Israel, worth nearly $30 billion, and sign a new one “that would constitute the largest pledge of military assistance to any country in U.S. history.”…

Such an aid agreement “would build on the unparalleled support that the United States has provided to Israel under President Obama,” Ms. Rice and Mr. Donovan said. “Through word and deed, this administration has blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

…Political dynamics have complicated the talks.

Some analysts in the United States and Israel say that Mr. Netanyahu is calculating that he may reach a more advantageous deal with a future president, a charge that the Israelis strenuously deny. Others have suggested that Mr. Obama is pressing to finish the agreement in part to insulate himself against accusations that he has been too tough on Israel, especially if he decides later this year to pressure the country to accept a peace deal with the Palestinians that embraces a two-state solution.

What that means in plain English is that the Trumpkin is ready to promise Netanyahu absolutely anything to move not only conservative Jewish voters to support him; but, maybe more. He will give away the Pentagon farm and offer nary a peep if Israel decides to roll up the rest of Palestinian land that they haven’t yet stolen. Scares the crap out of some Democrats.

The negotiations have unfolded in secret, with neither side willing to detail its position on an agreement that people close to the talks have said could top $40 billion. For months, United States and Israeli officials have haggled over the price tag, as Israel has insisted on a higher figure than the United States was willing to support…

Under the existing agreement, Israel is permitted to spend about a quarter of the military aid it receives outside the United States, and 13 percent of it on fuel — allowances that no other recipient of United States funding receives…

The provision originated in the 1980s as a way to spur the development of Israel’s defense industry, which is now booming. Israel has become one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world, competing with the United States.

Uh-huh. We’re all buddies in the Imperial Club. Death and destruction is still one of the most profitable businesses in our world.

Medicare scammers steal $60 billion a year — Meet a bounty hunter


John MininnoPhoto/João Canziani

John Mininno slaps two pieces of paper onto an overhead projector. “Look at this,” he says. “You see how one form is a photocopy of the other—with just the date changed? It’s exactly the same paper!” The printouts are mere insurance forms, but Mininno is genuinely pissed off about them. “They’re allowed to bill for that procedure again six months after they first provide it. That date is six months to the day!”

Not everyone can get this worked up about insurance forms. But to Mininno, these are a combination of smoking gun and a slap in the face. Together they clearly show that someone is ripping off Medicare. But perhaps what’s worse is that someone is being really lazy about it.

If Willie Sutton had to choose a criminal career today, he’d be ripping off Medicare too. As the bank robber supposedly said: That’s where the money is. The program spends more than $600 billion a year on health care for 54 million people, most of them seniors. It is a massive pool of underguarded funds ripe for skimming. By the government’s own accounting, fraudsters scammed $60 billion from Medicare in 2014, and the losses are growing. Since 2007 more than 2,300 health care providers have been charged with fleecing Medicare, and more than 1,800 defendants have been convicted of felony offenses, ranging from claiming phantom services to performing unnecessary surgeries.

Scams are run so often, by so many people, that dedicated government investigators can’t keep up: In 2014 prosecutions initiated by the government led to a mere 31 settlements yielding $88 million in fines. Luckily, there is another defense against Medicare fraud: whistle-blower lawsuits. Under the federal government’s false claims statute, any insider can sue a company that’s providing fraudulent services, on the government’s behalf. If the whistle-blower lawyers are successful, the plaintiffs collect 15 to 30 percent of the settlement as a bounty. In 2014 there were 469 of these health care fraud settlements—many involving huge pharmaceutical corporations and hospital networks—resulting in $2.2 billion in fines.

The problem is that even with this financial incentive, whistle-blowers can be skittish about coming forward and often are ill-prepared to present solid evidence…Professional whistle-blower lawyers are much better at arguing a convincing case. But lawyers aren’t always the best investigators. Sometimes finding an insider requires a nose for mischief, a gift for persuasion, and the technical chops to identify nonobvious patterns in impenetrable thickets of diagnostic codes and billing data. Sometimes it takes a bounty hunter. Someone like John Mininno

RTFA. Some of it is hilarious. Some is about how interesting and useful skilled data mining can be. All of it is about crime. The most meaningful thing about that crime is that the people who pat themselves on the back for providing healthcare to Americans are host to one of the largest class of criminals in America. These are doctors and nurses, hospital administrators, insurance companies and local medical clinics. They provide healthcare for every illness from diabetes to bipolar disorder. They steal from taxpayers.

On a personal note, just one more example of why I’d be working at extending my grounding in computational analysis – if I were starting out working for a living as a geek, today. From scientific research to forensic data mining, the craft is fascinating.

Oil and gas companies are leaders in stealing from their own employees


Click to enlargeKen James/Bloomberg
Halliburton’s idea of a healthy prairie

In a finding from last summer, the US Department of Labor said oilfield services company Halliburton underpaid about a thousand workers a total of $18 million…

Oilfield bankruptcies of companies large and small have been surging as prices remain at their lowest levels in a decade or more. But it’s not the only way a worker can be left underpaid. An Inside Energy analysis shows a growing number of oil workers are turning to the courts, saying they weren’t paid fairly even when times were good…

With the exception of a couple weeks in November, 28-year-old oil driller Kody Armajo has been out of work for a year. He has returned home to live with his parents in Riverton, Wyo…

Then one day last winter Armajo received a letter about a class action lawsuit, saying that his former employer, Precision Drilling, didn’t pay him enough overtime when he worked for them. He was eventually awarded $6,000…

As oil prices started dropping a year and a half ago, lawsuits like Armajo’s jumped in numbers. In Colorado, where he worked,there were nine times as many wage suits against oil and gas companies in 2015 as there were in 2010.

In Texas, the biggest oil state, there were nearly 10 times as many lawsuits…

Federal records show oil and gas companies are among the top violators of wage laws – particularly in not paying overtime. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division was seeing sufficient problems with apparent violations by 2012 to specifically investigate the oil and gas industry in some parts of the country.

Since then, the office has recovered about $40 million dollars in unpaid wages…

The biggest case…settled, by far, was against oilfield services giant Halliburton this past summer. In this case, the investigation found that Halliburton owed about a thousand workers a total of $18 million dollars.

Anyone surprised that some of the least responsible corporate citizens in the world are also the sleaziest employers? Someone, someday, will probably discover these creeps have been stealing from charities dedicated to widows and orphans.