09/20/2012

Whistleblower's take for spilling hospital chain's legal violations: $3 mil

National health care chain HCA will turn its head and cough after agreeing to pay $16.5 million to settle 2492839602_9a4b69fbfb_z claims it broke the law by enticed doctors to refer patients to a hospital.

The for-profit corporation was also accused of violating the False Claims Act, which involves cases of fraud against federal health care programs. A whistleblower who tattled on HCA will get 18.5 percent of the settlement, or about $3.1 million.

HCA has a large presence in North Texas with 10 hospitals, a Children’s Hospital, a Psychiatric Hospital, 12 ambulatory surgery centers, 13 Imaging Centers, an Oncology Center and a Freestanding Emergency Room in Dallas Fort Worth and the surrounding areas.  

In 2007, HCA, through subsidiaries in Tennessee, entered into financial dealings with a physician group and induced patient referrals by slipping doctors money through lease agreements.  

7900131666_56c542165a_zImproper business deals between hospitals and physicians jeopardize both patient care and federal program dollars,” said Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.   “Our investigators continue to work shoulder to shoulder with other law enforcement authorities to stop schemes that imperil scarce health care  resources.”

HCA owns and operates approximately 163 hospitals and approximately 109 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and London, England. Overall company revenues in 2011 were $32.5 billion, up 6 percent from 2010.

-- Darren Barbee

09/18/2012

ALERT: Violent TV may keep kids up -- preventing you from watching violent TV

Warning: This posting is not intended for children younger than 3, most of whom don’t read, but still.

I saw, I came, I sawedA study says that TV programs with violence — this includes virtually every program on television — and even cartoons with violence may be OK for older kids, but the younger crowd gets a bit bothered by them, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In fact, 3 to 5 year old children may not have a good night’s sleep Heart to heart especially when watching something disturbing, such as America’s Funniest Home Videos. (See photo, right)

Michelle Garrison of Seattle Children’s and University of Washington School of Public Health, said a study of 565 families revealed problems. Programs such as “Sesame Street” and “Curious George” were considered safe choices. The study, in the journal Pediatrics was Hmmmsupported, by the National Institutes of Health. See examples below.

“We really see significant improvements in sleep and that included things like decreased night wakings and nightmares, having an easier time falling asleep at night, being less cranky in the morning and just less tired during the day,” Garrison said.

 

-- Darren Barbee

Examples:

If you’re chlid is watching this, consider a different kind of muppet.

  

This, on the other hand, should put the tyke right to sleep.

   

 

 

 

 

09/14/2012

Former Texas priest accused of, uh, "bashing the bishop" on airplane, FBI says

Can’t blame the TSA for this one: Sometime after a plane's liftoff from Baltimore-Washington Taking offInternational Airport, a former Texas priest reportedly engaged in a takeoff of his own.

Daniel Michael Drinan, 63, who now lives in Reno, Nev., was arrested for sexually touching himself on an aircraft in full view of other passengers, according to the FBI and other federal authorities. He was previously accused of inappropriate behavior with a child in the Catholic Diocese of Austin.

No assigned seatingDrinan was on a flight to Denver when he connected to the aircraft’s WiFi and began viewing pornography, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint. A woman seated next to Drinan saw him touching himself, gave up hope he would stop, and alerted flight attendants, the FBI said.

A male flight attendant reportedly asked Drinan to “put his pants back together.”

“At the time the male flight attendant talked with Drinan the defendant’s genitalia was totally exposed,” a press release said. Drinan was taken into custody Saturday night at Denver International Oh boyAirport for lewd, indecent, or obscene acts in public aboard an aircraft.

In 2002, Drinan was accused of what the Austin diocese called “inappropriate behavior with a child.” BishopAccountability.org, which describes itself as a database of publicly accused U.S. priests, says Drinan was charged with misdemeanor assault not involving sexual contact or injuries to a child. He paid a fine over the matter, the site says.

If convicted of crimes aboard an aircraft, he faces not more than 90 days in jail and up to a $250,000 fine, according to the FBI.

-- Darren Barbee

09/13/2012

Texas medical professionals join the felon, fraud and drug addict club

Why not try methadoneYou can’t argue that Texas attracts medical professionals -- not that Melanie French Morrison, RN, had much of a choice.

Morrison, a nurse who used to work in Salina, Kan., had a drug addiction. She got a bus pass to Fort Worth from the Department of Justice following her convictions for tampering with a consumer product and adulterating drugs while caring for patients. She’s spending 36 months behind bars at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth.

Morrison worked at a nursing facility, where she used her keys to open the narcotics cabinet, siphon off morphine from vials using a syringe and refill them with sodium chloride (AKA normal saline).

A federal court referred to her switcheroo as “reckless disregard,” since it can injure or kill someone. Sodium chloride can be dangerous, Which muppet has the shiv particularly to patients who suffer from congestive heart failure or kidney problems.

This month, Morrison was excluded from participating in federal health care programs. That means she won't be getting taxpayer money any more. Uh, except for housing, feeding and clothing her. 

-- Darren Barbee

As of September, here are the newest Texas members of the federal Exclusions Club:

FIRSTNAME LASTNAME SPECIALTY CITY BUT WHY?
BARBARA ALGAIER Nursing PARIS License revoked/suspended
ANNETTE BERNAL Nursing AMARILLO License revoked/suspended
KELLY BUNYARD Nursing HUMBLE License revoked/suspended
JAMIE FENTON Nursing LONGVIEW Health care felony, fraud
CARLA GAUSE Unknown ADDISON abuse/neglect conviction
BRENDA HARRIS Equipment HOUSTON Conviction
CYNTHIA MENCHACA Nursing CORPUS CHRISTI License revoked/suspended
MARY MERTINS Nursing HEREFORD License revoked/suspended
ELLA MOORER Nursing GEORGETOWN abuse/neglect conviction
RONALD POULIN Physician ANTHONY Conviction
MARY POWELL Nursing ENNIS License revoked/suspended
CHARLES ROBERTS Unknown PEARLAND Conviction
KIMBERLY SAENZ Nursing GATESVILLE Conviction
DEBRA SPRADLIN Audiology BRYAN Conviction
HOLLY STEVENSON Pharmacy tech MCKINNEY License revoked/suspended
SARAH WEISHEIT nursing KATY License revoked/suspended
SOURCE: LEIE Exclusions database

09/11/2012

ATF agents handcuffed by Fast and Furious superiors resolve retaliation claims

Two more ATF special agents troubled by Operation Fast and Furious – one who watched supervisors Drug cartel gun battle ignore fears an officer would slain by the weapons they weren’t allowed to seize – have settled claims they were retaliated against.

Indeed, F&F was halted after a U.S. border agent was later killed by a gun buyer the ATF could have arrested, but was prevented from doing so.

Larry Alt and Olindo J. “Lee” Casa, two of the employees at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms filed retaliation claims with the Office of Special Counsel. The office said Tuesday they had resolved their cases through mediation. All mediation communications are confidential

Casa testified before congress that on many occassions surveillance teams followed gun buyers to the Phoenix area, watched them buy “devastating weapons” including AK-47 style weapons, .50 caliber rifles and pistols.

Holder“On many of those occasions, the surveillance team would then follow the straw purchasers either to a residence, a public location, or until the surveillance team was spotted by the straw purchasers,” Casa told Congress. “But the end result was always the same – the surveillance was terminated ... without interdicting or seizing the firearms.”

Casa said he and other agents warned superiors of something going wrong, but were ignored. On at least a couple of occasions, Casa said he witnessed a special agent ask supervisors if they were prepared to attend the funeral of slain agent or officer killed with one of the purchased firearms.

“Neither one answered or even seemed concerned by the question posed to them,” Casa testified.

The mediation follows the resolution last month of retaliation claims by ATF whistleblower Peter Forcelli.

-- Darren Barbee

Headline of the week (topic, irritable bowel syndrome)

This is either genius, or a terrible, terrible mistake. What looks to be an advertisement  for a clinical trial on a San Antonio radio station's website asks for people, at least 18 years old, to try out.  Digestion made easy

The pitch goes: "You know the feeling well, you’ve felt it before. You need a bathroom – now." 

The odd headline: The ins and outs of irritable bowel syndrome

Yes, we're 11 years old. But we're tall for our age.

-- Darren Barbee

08/27/2012

Texas agency directors make big bucks, but audit says some should make more

BishopIt’s comforting to know that at least one state employee will probably be OK when she retires.

Ann S. Bishop, executive director of the Employees Retirement System makes $312,000 (plus a bonus), according to a new report of top state officials’ salaries by the State Auditor’s Office.

Bishop should be good since she’s a “veteran of state government” who served as deputy Comptroller of Public Accounts and the first executive director of the Department of Information Resources.

To be clear, we’re not knocking Bishop, who has a big job managing a $23 billion investment portfolio and manages the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program, which provides health
care coverage to more than 500,000 state and higher education employees, retirees and their families. Gold

But the auditor’s report appears to preemptively rationalize the top salaries of state government employees, noting “it is in the State’s best interest to ensure equitable pay for executive officer positions to help recruit and retain qualified executive officers capable of effectively and efficiently managing state agencies.”

Salaries range from Bishop’s six-figures down to $65,000.

Of course, Gov. Rick Perry some state officials managed to Mansiondraw an annual salary, say $133,000, while also collecting retirement of, uh, oh call it another $92,376.

The audit recommends upping the pay among similar executive officer positions at state agencies. And it does point out some rather strange pay disparities, such as the four executive officers and another four management positions that earned higher salaries than the Health and Human Services Commission’s executive commissioner.

Or that the Department of Public Safety’s executive officer is not among the 30 top management salaries, despite managing an agency protecting Texans and overseeing a $1.5 billion budget.

Still, this is taxpayer money. So how much do, say, the top 26 people (two tied) get paid?

Here’s the list. We threw in a little comparison based on Texas’ 2010 median income of one earner: $38,801.

 

Agency

Title

Salary

 

Percent Median Income

Employees Retirement System Exec. Director $312,000   804%
Department of Transportation Exec. Director $292,500   754%
Treasury Safekeeping Trust CEO $292,000   753%
Teacher Retirement System Exec. Director $270,000   696%
Department of Transportation Finance officer $250,000   644%
Department of Transportation Chief, Strategy and Administration $245,000   631%
Department of Transportation  Chief Planning/Project Officer  $245,000   631%
Teacher Retirement System  Dep. Administrative Officer $231,276   596%
Health And Human Services Commission  Executive Commissioner $230,000   593%
Health and Human Services Commission  Dep. Director $216,652   558%
General Land Office  Dep. Director $216,446   558%
Department of Transportation  Dep. Executive Director $215,000   554%
Cancer Prevention and Research Institute  Executive Director $214,000   552%
Cancer Prevention and Research Institute  Chief Scientific Officer $212,000   546%
General Land Office  Dep. Director $210,244   542%
Teacher Retirement System  Dep. Director $205,200   529%
Department of Transportation  Chief Financial Officer $205,000   528%
Comptroller of Public Accounts  Dep. Comptroller $201,960   521%
General Land Office  Dep. Director $199,997   515%
General Land Office  Dep. Director $199,310   514%
State Auditor's Office  State Auditor $198,000   510%
Employees Retirement System  Dep. Director $196,000   505%
Department of Transportation  Dep. Director $195,000   503%
General Land Office  Division Director $194,480   501%
Office of the Governor Dep. Director $192,975   497%
Department of Transportation Dep. Director $190,000   490%

 

-- Darren Barbee

08/24/2012

Feds want to blacklist Texas trading biz just because it defrauded $30 million

Seems like there's always someone trying to take your money.

Fraud warningEar candle sellers, for some reason, always come to mind.

But now it's the Mihailovich Family Fraud fund being hit up.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission wants to revoke the registration of a father and son Texas company that bilked, conned and messed over lots of folks for $30 million.

Federal authorities say Robert Mihailovich Sr., convicted felon, and son Robert Mihailovich Jr., banned trader, ran a scheme to fraudulently solicit cash from commodity futures and foreign currency traders.

The commission says that’s plenty reason to yank the registration of Growth Capital Management of Rockwall.  Growth Capital is a registered Commodity Pool Operator and Commodity Trading Advisor.

A little background: Mihailovich, Sr. was convicted on federal wire fraud charges, spent 27 months CFTCBuilding inside and, while on a three-year supervised release, defrauded about 93 people out of than $30 million to open managed trading accounts, according to the government. Mihailovich, Jr., at the time of Growth Capital’s initial registration, forgot, as we all do from time to time, that dad was part of the business, the controlling principal and an ex-con.

It's like Father's Day; you just forget sometimes.

It’s still unclear whether Sr. and Jr. will face criminal charges. Federal court records do not show any Foreign exchangecriminal filings against them.

No doubt, though, they’re already writing the checks a federal court ordered Mihailovich Sr. and company to pay $3,475,112 in restitution, $389,006 in ill-gotten gains and a $5.4 million fine.

OK, maybe a little doubt.

-- Darren Barbee

Burger King smites Christian fired for wearing skirt, so feds smite back, suit says

A Texas Burger King is being accused of skirting the law, which, as you will see, is a very bad pun.

Creepy Burger ManA Christian woman's claim of religious discrimination based on her beliefs about clothing has brought the wrath of a somewhat higher power — the federal government — to the home of the Whopper.

The woman adheres to an interpretation of scripture about wearing clothing that is “befitting of specific gender,” the EEOC said. (Rumors have circulated for years that no BK uniform befits either gender.)

A Grand Prairie, Texas, Burger King is accused of discriminating against the Pentecostal cashier, who Do not buy a burger from this woman was fired after she wore a skirt to work instead of pants, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday. But be honest, would you buy a CROISSAN'WICH from a woman dressed like this anonymous person (pictured right)?

The woman told the company about her religious beliefs during her job interview and was told she could wear a skirt, the EEOC said. Then, at orientation, she was informed her apparel was inappropriate and was sent home.

Such conduct would violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars religious discrimination in the workplace, the feds contend. The EEOC is seeking back pay and damages for the woman.

The Burger King is owned by Fries Restaurant Management, LLC, which operates at least 10 BKs in Texas, according to Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts data. A person reached at the company could not comment on the case. No one else called back.

This brings us to the Quote of the Week: Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office said the nation apparently hasn’t figured out religious liberties if there's a problem “posed by letting an employee ‘hold the pickles’ and ‘hold the lettuce’ while wearing a skirt.”

-- Darren Barbee

Side note 1: If the feds really want their pound of flesh, they should join the 11 million people who each day visit Burger Kings globally. Here's how that works out if people just bought Whoppers without cheese and no fries or drinks:

Food stuffs calories Total fat (grams) Total calories for 11 million people Pounds of fat
WHOPPER 670 40           7,370,000,000         970,039
DOUBLE WHOP 900 57           9,900,000,000       1,382,306
TRIPLE WHOP 1140 82         12,540,000,000       1,988,580

Side note 2: Yes, we know Natalie Portman is Jewish.

08/16/2012

More government pork? Obama directs military, USDA to buy meat in lean times

After billions of dollars in government bailouts of banks, automakers,and Fannie and Freddie here comes another one: The Beef Bailout. Fresh meat

With so many folks getting federal hand-out love, perhaps it was only inevitable that the livestock industry would be next, even though it’s already received $3.7 billion in subsidies from 1995 to 2011, according to the Environmental Working Group.

The rationale: A bad drought has hit livestock folks hard. President Barack Obama directed the military and USDA to spend some more money, including $170 million for pork, chicken, lamb and catfish. The money would help farmers and ranchers to sell more and save taxpayer cash on food the Obama droughtgovernment would purchase anyway, the White House said.

Critics, aren't happy, saying Obama isn't doing enough to make it rain. Obama's meat buy, on the other hand, will cost more than the individual GDPs of 11 of the world's countries, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The president has also directed the military to explore accelerating meat purchases, which it would freeze it for future use.  

The Department of Defense annually purchases about:

194 million pounds of beef (estimated cost $212.2 million)

164 million pounds of pork ($98.5 million)

1500,000 pounds of lamb ($4.3 million)

EXLUSIVE: Watchdog has learned the military gets Spam. From July 2011 to June, the Defense SPAM Logistics Agency Troop Support purchased 701 cases of Spam for $31,242.  No word on whether Hormel Foods will also cash in on the federal aid.

(Will this cause blowback against the military? It's already had to deal with "emission prohibitons" (see link) for soldiers in Afghanistan.)

Obama noted that the meat buy won't solve the problem.

"We can't make it rain," he said.

Oh, but can’t he?

John BoehnerIn a press statement, Speaker of the House John Boehner, said Obama should take steps to pass legislation to help with the drought.

 

And that brings us to our quote of the month: “...The president continues to blame anyone and everyone for the drought but himself,” Boehner said.

Who can argue with that?

-- Darren Barbee

Star-Telegram.com