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Archive for the ‘Health Care’ Category

“This isn’t my face. I used to be real pretty.”

—Roblyn Ruggles, quoted in the Aug. 31, 1993 Wall Street Journal after eight oral-surgery procedures left her disfigured, without jaw joints, mouth permanently agape, and unable to bite into a sandwich or purse her lips for a kiss—a victim of jaw implants marketed by Drs. John Kent of the LSU School of Dentistry and his partner Charles Homsy of Houston.

“Dr. (Conrad) McVea stated both to me and to the Board that I could not be expected to comply with professional standards because I had not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.”

–Dr. Randall Schaffer, who is Jewish, in his federal lawsuit against the Louisiana Board of Dentistry and its members, including Dr. McVea, its attorney and its private investigator after the board revoked his license when he turned whistleblower against Dr. Kent’s faulty jaw implant.

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Suppose for a moment that you work as a technician for a large computer company and in the course of your duties, you discover the company is knowingly marketing computers with faulty hard drives destined to crash within a few months.

Imagine now that when you call the defect to the attention of your company CEO, you are fired, ostracized by your industry and unable to find employment because the word is on the street that you are disloyal and suddenly unreliable despite a stellar work record.

Taking this scenario a step further, you suddenly find yourself prosecuted—and persecuted—by your former company’s board of directors on vague charges of fraud and malfeasance. The board, you learn, will go to any length to defend its CEO—including the destruction of your career. Making matters worse, your accuser is also the prosecutor, the judge and the jury in your trial.

Even worse, when you walk into the courtroom, you are informed that you have already been convicted—without benefit of a trial—of unspecified crimes and that if you pay a fine of $25,000 and sign a consent decree, the matter will go away.

You are innocent of any wrongdoing, so of course you tell your accusers to take a long walk off a short pier.

They in turn inform you that there are other charges that haven’t even been mentioned yet and if you refuse to sign the consent decree and decide to stand and fight, your fine will increase to $100,000 or more—plus the fees of your own attorney and those of the prosecuting attorney—and the costs incurred by the “investigator” who discovered your crimes, costs which also could exceed $100,000.

Finally, you are told by one of the board members that you will never be allowed to work again in your field because of a difference in religious beliefs between you and the board.

Now give that company a name like say, the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, change the product from a computer hard drive to a dental implant and you have a pretty good idea of the plight of Dr. Randall Schaffer.

Schaffer, a 1982 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry with a Doctor of Dental Surgery, went on to two residencies at Charity Hospital and Louisiana State University Dental and Medical Center in New Orleans. Certified in General Dentistry in 1984 and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in 1988, he entered into private practice in oral and maxillofacial surgery in 1988 in Marrero and in Corinth, Mississippi.

More than a decade earlier, Dr. John (Jack) Kent, head of the LSU School of Dentistry’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, developed a joint replacement device for temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) sufferers. Kent subsequently entered into an agreement with a Houston company, Vitek, and the company’s principal shareholders, Drs. Charles and Ann Homsy, to manufacture and market the Proplast implant.

It proved to be a lucrative arrangement for Kent who was given stock in Vitek and earned royalties of 2 percent to 4 percent on the sale of Vitek products. He also received monetary compensation for giving written and verbal presentations to oral and maxillofacial surgeons throughout the world, according to a lawsuit filed by Schaffer against Kent, LSU, members of the Dental Board, attorney Brian Begue and board investigator Camp Morrison.

It did not take long for the implants to begin to fail, causing disfigurement, excruciating pain and at least eight suicides, according to a July 29, 2002, story in U.S. News & World Report.

As a resident at LSU, Dr. Schaffer became aware of the negative effects to patients receiving the implants, which Schaffer described as “defective (100 percent) in all patients implanted.”

Schaffer says in his lawsuit that he informed Dr. Kent of the “disastrous results” of the implant but Kent refused to stop placement of the devices and “threatened Dr. Schaffer with dismissal should this information regarding the research and adverse results be made public.”

By 1989, Schaffer was in private practice and was assisting implant victims by offering consultation and corrective procedures at no charge. “As hundreds of cases came forward, Dr. Schaffer began assistant plaintiff attorneys in the cases against Dr. Kent, his associates, and Louisiana State University,” the lawsuit says. “Eventually 675 patients were combined as a class for discovery purposes,” leaving the state exposed to about $1 billion in liability.

In 1992, the first case, that of Mary Elizabeth Leger of Jonesboro, Arkansas, was settled for $1 million.

Today, Schaffer lives in Iowa, Vitek is bankrupt, Dr. Charles Homsy is nowhere to be found (though he did surface long enough to write a scathing indictment of “predatory trial lawyers” for the Cato Institute in September of 2001), and DuPont, which manufactured the raw ingredients used in the implants was protected by the “bulk supplier doctrine,” which is a defense to failure-to-warn claims.

When Schaffer was named as a witness and consultant in the class action cases, the Board of Dentistry immediately launched its investigation of Schaffer who says that in 1995, the board “zealously embarked upon an investigation, prosecution and adjudication of a wide variety of claims.”

On Sept. 5, 2000, a board panel consisting of Drs. H.O. Blackwood, Conrad McVea and Dennis Donald revoked Schaffer’s license and imposed “excessive penalties,” Schaffer’s petition says. “The panel members and (then-board executive director) Barry Ogden, (investigator) Camp Morrison, (board attorney) Brian Begue and Arthur Hickham conspired to deprive me of my due process rights during my hearing.”

Begue openly violated a Louisiana Supreme Court order to cease participating in the proceedings by served as both prosecutor and board general counsel, Schaffer’s petition says. While another attorney was ostensibly brought into the matter by the board following the Supreme Court’s ruling barring Begue’s participation, Begue still participated in the proceedings

Even though his revocation was not permanent, Dr. Blackwood, who acted as chairman of Schaffer’s reconsideration hearings in 2004, 2007 and 2012, said on Dec. 7, 2012 that he had promised himself “from the beginning,” that Schaffer would never get his license reinstated.

As blatant as that comment was, it paled in comparison to Dr. McVea’s declaration that because Schaffer had not received his salvation because he had not accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior he could not be expected to comply with professional standards.

Schaffer is Jewish.

Donald added that Schaffer was “a bad person who had hurt people.”

Even if Schaffer’s revocation had been reversed by the courts, in all likelihood, his case would have been remanded back to the same board and the same panel that originally pulled his license as occurred in another disciplinary matter involving a second dentist whom we shall write about in our next post. In effect, the court would have simply thrown Schaffer back to the same pack of wolves, thus making it futile to pursue his case any further before the same group of people.

He said Kent had about 2,500 malpractice lawsuits against him. “I had one, which I won, and yet the board came after me while doing nothing to Dr. Kent,” Schaffer said. “They went behind me to my patients and told them such things as I had killed a patient and that I was going to (the Louisiana State Penitentiary at) Angola. I have accounts receivable in the millions of dollars because I never turned a patient away because he could not pay,” he said.

Once the board had pulled his license, however, it still kept the pressure on Schaffer with no let up.

Schaffer, after being forced out of his practice, leased his office building to another dentist, David Gerard Millaud.

On Dec. 20, 2000, Ogden sent a two-page letter to Dr. Millaud, saying:

“It has come to our attention that you are practicing in the office of Dr. Randall Schaffer…”

Then, in perhaps an unintentional admission that investigator Morrison was continuing to conduct surveillance on Schaffer, whom the board had already broken, Ogden said, “We have also observed Dr. Schaffer’s spending a great deal of time on the office. As you know, his license has been revoked and he is prohibited from practicing dentistry in any form.

“I also wish to call your attention to (state statute) which states:

The board may refuse to issue or may suspend or revoke any license or permit, or impose probationary or other limits or restrictions on any dental license or permit issued under this chapter for any of the following reasons:

Division of fees or other remuneration or consideration with any person not licensed to practice dentistry in Louisiana or an agreement to divide and share fees received for dental services with any non-dentist in return for referral of patients to the licensed dentists, whether or not the patient or legal representative is aware of the arrangement…”

The letter prompted an immediate response from Schaffer’s attorney Michael Ellis of Metairie, who wrote board attorney Jimmy Faircloth (who substituted for Begue after Begue was forced by the Supreme Court to step aside).

“I find it incredulous that the board would write such a letter under the circumstances of this case,” Ellis said. “I know of no law which prohibits Dr. Schaffer from ‘spending a great deal of time in the office.’ The board has effectively put this man out of business and now wants to harass a young dentist to whom Dr. Schaffer is renting space.

“If the board has any evidence whatsoever that either Dr. Millaud or Dr. Schaffer was in violation of the law, I ask that you notify me immediately. If the board is not in possession of such evidence, (Ogden’s) letter must be considered nothing but a tactic of harassment calculated to prevent Dr. Schaffer from earning a living.”

Millaud, who said he was not sharing fees or paying other remuneration to Dr. Schaffer, nevertheless decided that his best interest would be served by terminating his lease arrangement with Schaffer, Ellis said.

Then-State Sen. Chris Ullo (D-Marrero), who died earlier this year, contacted Gov. Mike Foster to intervene with the board on Schaffer’s behalf but Foster declined to get involved with what some might describe as his rogue board.

Then, following Ogden’s letter to Dr. Millaud, Schaffer himself requested an audience with Foster. On Dec. 27, exactly a week following Ogden’s letter to Millaud, Chris Stelly, writing on behalf of Foster, said the board “is an independent body created and empowered” by state law and that the board had “sole jurisdiction over this matter. Therefore, this office does not have the authority to intervene.

“However, I have taken the liberty of forwarding your letter to Mr. C. Barry Ogden, executive director of the LA State Board of Dentistry, for his information.”

That, readers, is what is known as the classic bureaucratic shuffle.

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Sometimes it’s just mind-boggling to try and fathom what goes through the minds of our political leaders.

The only possible explanation may be found in the 1969 book The Peter Principle by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. In their book, they introduced the “salutary science of hierarchiology” which theorized that in a hierarchy, employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.

Take, for example, that news release from the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) just last Aug. 13. DHH trumpeted the recovery of more than $124 million in fraudulent payments in the Medicaid program, “the highest rate of recovery in any state in the nation at nearly 2 percent of all Medicaid dollars spent in Louisiana.

One must wonder just where the oversight was at the time that should have caught and prevented such overpayments.

Yet, only two months prior to that announcement, a red-faced DHH learned that one of its own had embezzled more than $1 million to finance her gambling addiction.

In that case, DHH accountant Deborah Loper was accused of diverting funds over a six-year period in a scheme that revealed glaring weaknesses in departmental policy.

Her arrest warrant said she intercepted more than 130 checks payable to DHH “meant for invaluable health care services for Louisiana’s Medicaid recipients,” Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said.

She had been entrusted to manage a bank account opened in 2006 on behalf of the National Association of State Human Services Financial Officers in order to underwrite the association’s 2009 conference.

Former DHH fiscal director Stan Mead volunteered to hold the conference and designated Loper and her immediate supervisor to organize the event. Loper was given responsibility for management of the account and had the authority to conduct financial transactions, the warrant said.

She was instructed to close the account following the conference but instead, fabricated documents so as to give the appearance she had complied but instead, merely changed the address on the account so that she could receive the monthly statements at her home.

The main source of the money was Medicaid reimbursements that were issued to DHH by licensed Medicaid providers and were intended to be returned to the state’s Medicaid program, Caldwell said.

Her embezzlement went unnoticed by her superiors until February of 2013 when she inadvertently deposited one of the checks for more than $40,000 into her own account and her bank subsequently froze her account.

Only three months before the revelation of that financial oversight by DHH officials, we learned of an ongoing FBI investigation into that infamous $300 million contract with CNSI which quickly resulted in cancellation of the contract by the Jindal administration and the resignation of DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein.

Then in February of this year, Greenstein’s undersecretary Jerry Phillips announced his retirement after 25 years at DHH. Oddly, he announced he was retiring to “pursue other employment options with the state.”

DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said Jeff Reynolds would replace Phillips on March 10, the same day the legislative session convenes.

Reynolds started with DHH as an Accountant Administrator 5 in July of 2006 at $102,000 per year. Most recently, he served as Medicaid Deputy Director at $113,734 per year.

And the person who served as Loper’s immediate supervisor while she was skimming that $1 million from DHH?

Jeff Reynolds.

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With the 2014 regular session of the legislature less than two weeks away, there have already been a couple of interesting developments that could prevent lawmakers from learning how a federal investigation of a major contract came about in the first place.

There already is speculation that two recent resignations in the Jindal administration may have something to do with avoiding testimony before legislative committees that may wish to look into the controversial $284 million contract between the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and CNSI.

Subpoenas could be issued for Paul Rainwater, Jerry Phillips, and Bruce Greenstein but if they choose to ignore subpoenas, the legislature has options in that legislative subpoenas carry the same weight as a court subpoena provided a legislative subpoena meets certain criteria.

It is, to say the least, curious that former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater (more recently, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Chief of Staff), and DHH Undersecretary Jerry Phillips resigned only a few days apart and less than a month before the legislature convenes at noon on March 10.

Apparently timing in politics, like in comedy, is everything. Phillips, while giving no specific date for his retirement, did say he would retire “before the start of the session.”

DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said Phillips, who has worked for DHH for 25 years, will pursue “other employment options with the state following his retirement.” She said he would be replaced by DHH Deputy Director Jeff Reynolds on (drum roll, please…) March 10.

That, or course, raises the obvious question of whether Phillips will remain conveniently retired until the session adjourns on June 2 before becoming the latest retire-rehire, a popular trend among executive level state employees these days.

Phillips, you may recall was seated next to Greenstein back in June of 2011 when the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee was considering the confirmation of Greenstein as Jindal’s choice for DHH Secretary.

It was Phillips who repeatedly advised Greenstein and defended his boss’s refusal to identify to the committee CNSI as the winner of the 10-year, $30 million-a-year contract to replace DHH’s 23-year-old computer system that adjudicates health care claims and case providers.

Greenstein has previously worked for CNSI and when he refused to identify the contract winner, then-Sen. Rob Marionneaux (D-Livonia) asked, “Are you telling me right now, today, that you’re refusing to tell this committee who’s going to receive that…contract?”

After several more exchanges between Greenstein and Marionneaux, Green said, “I’m not going to be able to say today.”

Sen. Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) then asked Greenstein, “Who made the decision not to tell us this information under oath?”

“This was from my department…”

“You are the department,” Amedee interrupted. “Who is the person above you? Who is your boss?”

“The governor,” said Greenstein.

“Can you tell me if this company you used to work for—whether or not they got the contract?”

“I can’t discuss the matter.”

“You can, you just choose not to,” Amedee said.

At one point after Greenstein and Phillips repeatedly alluded to the “process and procedure” employed by DHH in awarding contracts, Amedee, in apparent frustration, tossed his pencil over his shoulder and turned away from the witnesses.

Committee Vice-Chair Karen Carter Peterson said, “You don’t want me to know, but you know. Is this what we call transparency?”

Phillips said once the contractor’s name is made public, “it’s the equivalent of an announcement.”

“Do you make the law?” Peterson shot back.

“I interpret the law,” said Phillips, who is an attorney.

“Then you’re not doing a good job. Mr. Secretary (Greenstein), I hope you’re paying attention. How many lawyers do we have on this committee? We make law and yet you choose to follow this gentleman (Phillips).”

“It’s all part of the process,” Phillips said. “It’s (the selection process) done in conjunction with consultation and direction from the procurement folks.”

“In conjunction with whom?” asked Peterson.

“They’re part of the Division of Administration,” he said for the first time, implicating DOA—and Rainwater—in the controversy.

Committee Chairman Robert “Bob” Kostelka (R-Monroe) finally broke in to say, “I don’t know the difference between firewalling and stonewalling but this committee’s concern is whether or not to recommend to the full Senate that these people should be confirmed for the jobs for which they’ve been nominated.

“The much larger issue here is the integrity of the entire DHH. We don’t care about your procedures. We’ve got to determine if we trust the integrity of the people before us. We’re asking you to put aside your procedures and protocol and answer our questions. Knowing that, I don’t see why
you cannot make this committee aware if a former employer of this man is going to win a multi-million dollar contract from the state.”

When Phillips again attempted to invoke “respect for the statute,” Kostelka interrupted. “Again, sir, this has nothing to do with making the award. We’re asking who got the contract. It’s pretty obvious to us that they’re (CNSI) the one getting the contract.”

At that point, Phillips asked if he could confer with Greenstein. The two left the room for 16 minutes and upon their return, Greenstein, after a few more questions, said, “It is CNSI.”

Rainwater, who on Feb. 17, unexpectedly announced his resignation as Jindal’s Chief of Staff, effective Mar. 3, a week before the legislature convenes. He served as Commissioner of Administration from Aug. 9, 2010, until October 15, 2012, when he moved across the street to the governor’s office.

As chief of staff, Rainwater has been in charge of the policy advisors and strategists and supposedly enjoys a close day-to-day working relationship with Jindal—though probably not nearly as close as Timmy Teepell through whom Jindal has funneled nearly $3 million from his campaign ($1.27 million), and his non-profit organizations Believe in Louisiana ($1.22 million) and America Next. (No payments have been listed for America Next, Jindal apparently having learned his lesson when he listed contributions and payments to Believe in Louisiana.)

It’s difficult to believe that Rainwater, in overseeing Jindal’s advisors and strategists, would have been unwise enough to advise his boss to go off the way he did at the National Governor’s Conference on Monday. He is far too intelligent for such foolishness.

Even the Baton Rouge Advocate saw Jindal for what he really is—a spoiled brat who, if he can’t have his way, pouts or throws a tantrum—as depicted in one of the best editorial cartoons we’ve seen in a long time:

http://theadvocate.com/multimedia/walthandelsman/8477684-123/walt-handelsman-for-feb-26

That was plain idiotic and inappropriate and in the world of political faux pas, ranks right up there with his college exorcism and his Republican response to President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address.

The suggestion of a tactic to make Jindal look that silly in front of a national television audience could only have come from someone like Teepell. Unless, of course, Jindal simply ad-libbed it which is certainly not out of the question, given his propensity of letting his alligator mouth overload his jaybird backside.

But back to the resignations of Greenstein, Phillips and Rainwater.

Greenstein announced his resignation on Mar. 29, 2013 immediately after word of a federal investigation into the CNSI contract was announced. Even then, for reasons no one has yet explained, he was allowed to remain until May. At about the same time as Greenstein’s resignation announcement was made, it was learned that a federal grand jury in Baton Rouge had subpoenaed all records dealing with the CNSI contract from the Division of Administration (DOA) as early as January of 2013.

That would mean that Jindal had to know about the investigation as much as three months before Greenstein’s resignation but said nothing about the probe and only cancelled the CNSI contract after the Baton Rouge Advocate broke the story of the four-page subpoena.

And now, only days—and in one case, only hours—before the opening of the 2014 legislative session, two other prominent figures in the CNSI story will be gone, out of reach of any curious legislative committee which might wish to question them about their knowledge of events surrounding the awarding of the contract.

Legislative committees and subcommittees have the authority under legislative rule to conduct studies, administer oaths to witnesses and to seek subpoenas and punishment for contempt although subpoenas require the approval of the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate upon the request of the committee chairman or by a majority of the standing committee members.

Louisiana Revised Statute 24:4 through 24:6 provides that a person is guilty of contempt of the legislature “if he willfully fails after subpoena to appear or produce materials.” Initiation of prosecution for criminal contempt is by certification to the district in the proper venue, in this case East Baton Rouge Parish.

The legislative subpoena and contempt provisions have been upheld in a number of court cases, most notably a 1972 case involving a state legislator who claimed to have tape recordings of an attempt to bribe him and a 1979 case against then-Insurance Commissioner Sherman Bernard and his deputy commissioner.

The two men, who appeared subject to subpoenas, interrupted committee hearings on insurance regulations and left the meeting room despite warning that their actions subjected them to being held in contempt. The two were subsequently held in contempt and fined $500 each.

 

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Could Bobby Jindal possibly embarrass himself any more than he did on Monday?

Could he possibly have revealed himself any more of a calloused, uncaring hypocrite than he did on Monday?

Jindal’s outburst upon exiting a meeting between the nation’s governors and President Barack Obama Monday was a petulant display of immaturity that only served to underscore his disgraceful scorn for Louisiana’s working poor in favor of pandering to the mega-rich Koch brothers.

His shameless promotion of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project coupled with his criticism of Obama’s push for a minimum wage increase comes on the heels of word that Jindal is literally stealing from the blind in drawing down more than half of a trust fund established to assist blind vendors in state buildings to purchase equipment, to pay for repairs and to pay medical bills. http://theadvocate.com/news/8440065-123/blind-vendors-jindals-office-spar

That trust fund has shrunk from $1.6 million to about $700,000, apparently because of yet another lawsuit the administration finds itself embroiled in over the delivery of food services at Fort Polk in Leesville that has sucked up $365,000 in legal fees, of which the state is responsible for 21 percent, or $76,650.

(I worked for the Office of Risk Management for 20 years and $365,000 in legal fees is not unreasonable for a major lawsuit that involves significant injuries or death where liability is in question. But $365,000 in attorney bills in a lawsuit over who gets to run the cafeteria, a commissary and a grocery store would seem to be a tad high—even for the law firm Shows, Cali, Berthelot and Walsh, which is representing the state under a $500,000 contract with the Louisiana Workforce Commission.)

Rubbing salt into the wounds is the fact that the Blind Vendors Committee, which is supposed to have a say in policy decisions, has been left out of the loop over the Fort Polk controversy.

Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, justified the hiring of private attorneys to defend the litigation by saying his office’s staff attorneys are too busy to handle the contract lawsuit.

That brings up two questions:

  • Busy doing what?
  • And isn’t this the same administration that pitched a hissy fit when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East contracted with a private attorney to seek damages from 97 oil companies for destroying the Louisiana wetlands?

But back to the boy blunder. Jindal turns his back on a minimum wage increase for the working poor to stand outside the White House to chat up the Keystone pipeline which would have the potential of generating $100 billion in profit for Charles and David Koch?

Today’s (Wednesday) Baton Rouge Advocate ran this editorial cartoon that is certain to become a classic in that it symbolizes the defining moment of the Jindal administration:

http://theadvocate.com/multimedia/walthandelsman/8477684-123/walt-handelsman-for-feb-26

Jindal said of Obama’s push for an increase in the minimum wage that the president “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” and that Obama’s economy “is now the minimum wage economy. I think we can do better than that.” And by “better,” he was referring to the Keystone pipeline which he said Obama would approve if he were “serious about growing the economy.”

Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy almost pushed Jindal aside in his eagerness to take the microphone to say, “Wait a second. Until a few moments ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road. So let me just say that we don’t all agree that moving Canadian oil through the United States is necessarily the best thing for the United States economy.” He said Jindal’s “white flag” comment was the most partisan of the weekend conference and that many governors, unlike Jindal, support an increase in the minimum wage.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, also a Democrat, was a bit blunter, calling Jindal a “cheap shot artist” as he walked off the White House grounds.

Jindal, of course, wants to be president so badly that he is perfectly willing to sell his soul to the Koch brothers and their organizations Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the apparent hope that some of their AFP money might find its way into his campaign coffers.

AFP is the same super PAC that recently hired professional actors to pose as Louisiana citizens claiming that Obamacare is hurting their families. The merits of lack thereof of Obamacare aside, this is politics at its very sleaziest and our governor is in bed with them.

But this is perfectly in keeping with his character as governor. He has attempted to rob state employees of their retirement benefits. He has attempted to destroy public education with a full frontal attack on teachers. His administration has handed out huge no-bid contracts to consultants as if they were beads at a Mardi Gras parade. He has handed over the state’s charity hospital system to private concerns, including two facilities that went to a member of his LSU Board of Stuporvisors. He has run roughshod over higher education. He has fired appointees and demoted legislators who dared think for themselves. He has refused to expand Medicaid despite living in a state with one of the highest number of citizens lacking medical insurance. He has crisscrossed the country making silly speeches designed only to promote his presidential ambitions by keeping his name before the public. He has written countless op-ed pieces and appeared on network TV news shows for the same purpose.

And still, whenever the pundits start listing the potential Republican presidential contenders for 2016, he name never appears as a blip on their radar. Even Sarah Palin’s name pops up now and then but never Jindal’s.

Even readers of his favorite political blog, The Hayride, which among other things 1), recently featured an infomercial touting a sure-fire cancer cure and 2), got taken in by a hoax video depicting an eagle swooping down and trying to grab an infant in a park, seem to hold Jindal in low regard. A couple of weeks ago The Hayride conducted its own poll of potential Republican candidates for president in 2016.

Here are their results:

  • Sen. Ted Cruz: 39.9 percent;
  • Sen. Rand Paul: 20.7 percent;
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: 10.1 percent;
  • Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: 5.8 percent;
  • Other/Undecided: 24.9 percent.

That’s it. No Jindal. And this from a decidedly pro-Jindal Louisiana political blog. We can only assume he may have shown up somewhere among the 24.9 percent undecided. But this much we do know: he was beaten by Sarah Palin.

At this point, we don’t need a poll to tell us that Jindal would be far better suited as the auctioneer in that GEICO commercial or as the disclaimer voice at the end of those pharmaceutical ads that tell us how we could all die from side effects of the drug that’s being advertised to help with our medical malady—or perhaps even better as the really rapid fire voice that absolutely no one on earth can understand at the end of those automobile commercials.

He has, after all, been auditioning for the part for six years now.

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“In no event will coverage be provided to any subscribers, as of March 1, 2014, unless the premiums are paid by the subscriber (or a relative) unless otherwise required by law.”

—Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana spokesman John Maginnis, explaining why BCBS of Louisiana will no longer comply with terms of the federal Ryan White Program.

Ryan White grantees “may use funds to pay for premiums on behalf of eligible enrollees in Marketplace plans, when it is cost-effective for the Ryan White program. The third-party payer guidance CMS released (in November) does not apply to” Ryan White programs.

—CMS spokesperson Tasha Bradley, refuting BCBS’s interpretation of a CMS anti-fraud directive issued in November.

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First Gov. Bobby Jindal refused to expand the state’s Medicaid program and then he vetoed a $4 million appropriation aimed at shortening a waiting list for home-based services for the developmentally disabled.

And now there is this:

AIDS patients in Obamacare limbo as insurers reject checks.”

That was the headline on the Reuters story that moved on the Internet at 9:23 a.m. on Saturday. The upshot of the story was that hundreds of HIV/AIDS patients in Louisiana attempting to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act are in danger of being rejected by the insurance plan they selected.

Just as significant is the roar of stony silence emanating from the State Capitol’s fourth floor office of Bobby Jindal who, six years ago first swore an oath to uphold the rights of all the citizens of Louisiana—even those several hundred adversely affected by the latest BCBS decision. Some would even speculate that Jindal may have leaned on BCBS, which holds two contracts worth $1.1 billion with the state through the Office of Group Benefits.

Others might even raise the question that if Jindal did influence the decision, did he do so at the behest of the Louisiana Family Forum?

The issue revolves around a dispute over federal subsidies and the interpretation of federal rules about preventing Obamacare fraud

BCBS, the state’s largest carrier, is rejecting checks from a federal program that is specifically designed to assist HIV/AIDS patients in paying for AIDS drugs and for insurance premiums under the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act.

Ryan White, a hemophiliac from Kokomo, Indiana, was diagnosed with AIDS at age 13 from a contaminated blood transfusion. He and his mother Jeanne White Ginder fought for his right to attend school. He died in 1990 at age 18, a month before his high school graduation and only months before Congress passed the act that bears his name.

The Ryan White Program is the single largest federal program designed specifically for people with HIV and benefits more than half a million patients each year. It provides care and support services to individuals and families affected by the disease, serving as the “payer of last resort” by filling the gaps for those who have no other source of coverage or who face coverage limits.

But now, inexplicably, BCBS says it will no longer accept third-party payments such as those provided by the Ryan White Program.

“In no event will coverage be provided to any subscribers, as of March 1, 2014, unless the premiums are paid by the subscriber (or a relative) unless otherwise required by law,” said BCBS spokesman John Maginnis (no, not the journalist).

The decision stems from a series of communications from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the lead Obamacare agency. In September, CMS informed insurers that Ryan White funds “may be used to cover the cost of private health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments” for Obamacare plans.

But in November, CMS warned care providers and “other commercial entities” that because of the risk of fraud, it had “significant concerns” about their supporting premium payments and assistant Obamacare consumers pay deductibles and other costs.

BCBS seized on that to say it had implemented a policy, “across our individual health insurance market, of not accepting premium payments from any third parties who are not related” to the subscriber, according to Maginnis.

Not so fast, says CMS. “The third-party payer guidance CMS released (in November) does not apply” to the Ryan White programs, it said.

Hundreds of HIV/AIDS patients who are not eligible for Medicaid depend on Ryan White payments for Obamacare. That is because Gov. Bobby Jindal chose not to expand the low-income Medicaid program and Obamacare federal subsidies do not kick in until people are at 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

The only other carrier currently refusing to accept such payments is BCBS of North Dakota, according to a CMS spokesperson but that policy is currently under review.

Jessica Stone, a member of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s staff, in an email to health care advocates, wrote, “BCBS LA told me their decision was not due to the CMS guidance or any confusion (as we thought before) but was in fact due to adverse selection concerns” in an effort by insurers to keep AIDS patients from enrolling in their plans.

Adverse selection refers to the situation where an insurer attracts patients with chronic conditions and expensive care. John Peller, vice president for policy at the AIDS Foundation in Chicago, said the action “sure looks to us like discrimination against sick people.”

BCBS LA denied that. “We welcome all Louisiana residents who chose Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana,” Maginnis said.

One observer said it shouldn’t matter who pays the premiums. “All the insurer should care about is whether the premiums are paid or not. I once loaned money to a friend and had problems getting him to pay me back. His girlfriend finally paid me some of the money. If I had been like BCBS, I would have refused her money, preferring to get it from him—and I would have gotten nothing. This makes no sense whatsoever.”

Perhaps Jindal intends to ignore the 13,400 HIV/AIDS victims served by the program in Louisiana and use the $50.7 million in Ryan White funds the state receives to help plug next year’s all but certain budget deficit.

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The latter part of January 2014 should probably be remembered when the policies of Gov. Bobby Jindal began to unravel in rapid succession and as a time when he was finally exposed as far more goobernatoral than gubernatorial.

If that seems harsh and disrespectful of the man and the office, then so be it; it’s only because he has earned it—in spades.

He has submitted executive budget after executive budget crafted around one-time funding for recurring expenditures—something he vowed never to do when he was running for office. He has sold off state property and entire agencies to finance those budgets. He has gone on a privatization rampage that is now coming home to bite him in the posterior, to the surprise of few observers. He has stacked board after commission with campaign lackeys who possess few, if any, qualifications for their positions of responsibility for running such things as the state’s flagship university. He has embarked on an ambitious quest for the Republic presidential nomination that is doomed to failure and disappointment.

That said, let’s examine the developments of the past few days that have converged to upset the house of cards upon which his administration has been built over the past six years:

  • The Office of Group Benefits (OGB) was privatized only a year ago. In that time, some 100 state employees lost their jobs, a $500 million reserve fund has dwindled to half that because of an ill-advised decision by Jindal to reduce premiums to some 250,000 state employees, dependents and retirees by 7 percent to make the privatization more palatable—and to reduce the state’s share of premium payments thereby helping Jindal balance his budget. Meanwhile, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, the third party administrator who assumed management of OGB as a “cost savings plan” was forced to draw down that cash reserve to pay claims.

The folly of that ploy, of course, manifested itself this week when it was learned that double digit (some say as much as 25 percent) premium increases are imminent in order to keep what was once arguably the best-run agency in state government afloat. Meanwhile, yet another CEO has departed and the fourth in less than three years has been ushered in.

  • The crash and burn disaster of the administration’s privatization of the LSU hospital system is even more dramatic. The Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana (BRF) took over the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Shreveport last October because Jindal assured us that it would save taxpayer dollars. Yet, less than four months after BRF assumed operation of the two facilities, it is asking the state to bankroll more than $120 million in hospital improvements and expansions.

And don’t forget this privatization deal was approved by the LSU Board of Stuporvisors. One of the board members who voted for the deal which at the time, included a contract with more than 50 blank pages, just also happens to be the CEO of BRF but Jindal pooh-poohed the very idea that there could be a conflict of interests.

  • Another hospital privatization, that of the Interim Louisiana Hospital which replaced the old Big Charity that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina, is also proving to be a tad more costly than we had been told by Jindal, thanks to the scrapping of a $46.5 million medical records system that is less than two years old.

On Friday, Jan. 24, ILH CEO Cindy Nuesslein notified employees of the one-time LSU Medical Center now jointly run by Children’s Hospital of New Orleans and Touro Infirmary that the electronic health record system installed by Epic Systems Corp. was being scrapped in favor of something called the Soarian Clinicals Siemens platform. No cost estimate was provided for the changeover, but it’s a good bet that the cost will be borne by the state.

The Epic system only went live in July of 2012 and the Epic contract, which began on May 18, 2010, expired on May 17, 2013.

  • When Jindal privatized the University Medical Center in Lafayette, he also closed the medical center’s First Step Detox, a “first step” treatment center for those suffering from chemical dependency—typically chronic alcoholics, IV heroin and/or other opiate abusers, including polysubstance abusers. When First Step Detox reopened, it sublet the center to Compass, a private entity that accepts only private pay and insured patients.

The news release announcing the reopening of First Step made no mention of the new admission policy, nor did it mention the ever-shrinking number of options for treatment for indigent patients. Now former patients are referred to the overburdened Baton Rouge Detox where they are instructed to fax their paperwork in order that they may be placed on a long waiting list.

  • Another private contractor with four contracts worth more than $385.5 million has been the subject of two critical audits by the Legislative Auditor’s Office. Moreover, a north Louisiana doctor claims that physicians are refusing to accept patients with Magellan insurance.

The first state audit, released in mid-December, says that the Department of Health and Hospitals provided no external evaluation of the performance of Magellan under its $361.4 million contract to handle paperwork and connect Medicaid 151,000 patients with mental health care providers.

Last August, the legislative auditor’s office said claims payments have been problematic for four state agencies and blamed Magellan for failing to meet significant technical requirements.

DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert disputed that claim, saying that the privatization is working. She said the number of health care providers has expanded from 800 to 1,700—a claim hotly disputed by Scott Zentner, a Monroe neuropsychiatric doctor.

“I wish I could get to the bottom of Kliebert’s phony numbers regarding the supposed increase in providers since the Magellan takeover because the evidence is clearly to the contrary,” Zentner said. “I would bet my medical license that people are being counted now (that) weren’t before.”

Zentner said Magellan’s contract extends to private and public providers in a number of treatment settings. “Previously, they (providers) were reimbursed by fee for contracted services through DHH and some were not billing Medicaid at all, such as employees with the Office of Family Support.” Now, though, providers who were already delivering services before Magellan are now being included in the count who were not before, he said.

“I find it despicable that the head of DHH is twisting the numbers to cover up for a dramatic decline in services,” he said.

Zentner retired in 2012 after 20 years that included work as a medical director and staff psychiatrist for DHH and as a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at LSU. He said he returned to private practice after being “unable to further tolerate Jindal’s dismantling of our mental health system.”

He said he accepts all private insurances now except Magellan after “having been burned by them in the past for unpaid claims. They are the ultimate master in the use of passive-aggressive stall tactics in denying payments to providers, typically for silly technicalities; eg, misspellings resulting from typos.”

“In the northeast region of the state, with Monroe as the center of a 12-parish district, 75 percent of the physician/psychiatrist coverage has abandoned the community mental health system since Jindal took office,” he said. “Several Medicaid rehab agencies have shuttered their doors, one mental health clinic has closed in Rayville and others, including those in Winnsboro and Jonesboro, have been reduced to part-time outreach clinics operated by skeleton crews. Other outreach clinics, providing the most basic of mental health services, have closed in Tensas and East Carroll parishes,” he said.

“Other regions in the state have experienced even greater cuts than ours, but I doubt any of the regional administrators who are still employed would admit this publicly lest they be fired by Jindal.

“I’m highly skeptical of their (DHH) claims that provider rolls have increased, as (their figures) grossly contrast with reality,” he said.

The second audit was of the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) and cited the office for its failure to develop a plan to monitor OJJ contracts managed by Magellan.

Magellan has a $22.4 million two-year contract with the Department of Children and Family Services also scheduled to expire on Feb. 28.

That contract calls on Magellan to provide an array of coordinated community-based services “for children and youth with behavioral health disorders and their families that risk out of home placement.”

Magellan’s contract calls for it to take over management beginning Jan. 1, 2013, at Harmony Center-Camellia Group Home in Baton Rouge, Boys and Girls Villages in Lake Charles, Boys Town of Louisiana (two facilities, in New Orleans and Baton Rouge), Harmony Center-Harmony III Group Home in Baton Rouge, and Allen’s Consultation, Inc., in Baton Rouge.

The contract requires that Magellan submit a written report detailing its progress to OJJ every six months but as of December 2013, OJJ had not received any such report documenting use of contract funds or of meeting specific goals of the contract.

  • Finally, in what is probably the most heartless, most ungrateful act yet by this administration, Jindal last week ordered the Louisiana National Guard (LNG) not to process any benefits for gay veterans on state property—in open defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Apparently Jindal based his position on some state’s rights legal opinion which he feels gave him the leverage needed to deny benefits on state property. It looks to us like more work for Jimmy Faircloth to try and defend another administration policy of questionable legal merit.

What makes this order so egregious is the blatant flag waving hypocrisy in which Jindal envelopes himself.

This is the same governor who, in a great show of his patriotism for the benefit of newspaper photographers and television cameras, traveled all over this state to hand out those appreciation medals to military veterans. The bill to award the medals was passed in the belief that legislators would benefit from the goodwill but Jindal stole that opportunity from under their collective noses with his shameless traveling awards show, denying lawmakers the chance to get in on the act. (Just for the record, as a matter of principle, I chose not to stand in line to have him present my medal nor did I apply for it to be mailed to me even though I served.)

Moreover, as thousands of Louisiana guardsmen were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade or so, never once do I remember anyone in this administration inquiring if anyone being placed in harm’s way for his or her country was gay. Apparently it’s perfectly okay to get shot or blown up by a roadside IED if you’re gay but if you’re lucky enough to survive, don’t bother coming home and applying for benefits.

Never, in my 70 years, have I witnessed an act so gutless, so callused. To hide behind the flag and to call oneself a Christian and a patriot while at the same time issuing such a cowardly order is beneath contempt.

It is the act of a petulant little ingrate who would defend the senseless and insensitive comments of a Phil Robertson while pretending to support the men and women who wear the uniform that he never had the courage to wear.

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When they were competing for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, George Bush referred to Ronald Reagan’s economic platform as “voodoo economics.” When he lost to the Gipper and was named as Reagan’s running mate, Bush called himself a convert.

Well, we at LouisianaVoice are far from converted and the first wave of savings for state government rolled out by Alvarez and Marsal (A&M) can only be called doo-doo economics. In fact, the laundry list of so-called “savings” waved under the noses of the media by Minister of Propaganda Kristy Nichols leaves us even more skeptical of the now $5 million A&M contract than before.

That’s right. A&M has done such a wonderful job that its contract has been amended from the original $4.2 million to $5 million.

And Nichols’ dog and pony show is not only a clumsy effort to make an ill-advised contract look attractive, it’s downright insulting to taxpayers’ intelligence. It’s also an embarrassing admission that the Jindal team simply is not up to the task of running the state.

When she was caught “misspeaking” when she told legislators that the contract guaranteed a $500 million savings in four months—the $500 million was mentioned in the firm’s cover letter but not in the contract—she said the contract would be amended to say that. Well, apparently that little correction cost an additional $800,000. That wasn’t the way we interpreted “amended.”

Let’s face it: if she truly “misspoke” in proclaiming the contract guaranteed a $500 million savings, she should never have been given the responsibility of holding the state’s purse strings; she’s utterly and completely unqualified to hold her job. If, on the other hand, she simply lied to legislators, she should be summarily fired. What’s next, blocking the access ramp to the Sunshine Bridge so Troy Landry can’t get to Pierre Parte?

Compared to this administration, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is an unimaginative moron when it comes to creative ways to fool some of the people even some of the time.

In releasing the list, Nichols bubbled that the contract has already paid for itself in its first month in finding more than $4 million in savings. But, realistically speaking, we should expect nothing else from this administration. Gov. Bobby Jindal is so adept at misdirection, that should his presidential bid fall short, he can fall back on a second career as a stage magician. Let’s compare the “news” releases on the governor’s web page against the facts: http://www.gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=home&navID=3&cpID=0&catID=2

  • Guv: “Louisiana marks sixth consecutive year of population in-migration.”
  • Fact: Our friend Elliott Stonecipher provided figures from the U.S. Census Bureau that show the state’s out-migration from July 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013 resulted in a loss of 2,492 people. If we have had, as Jindal insists, six straight years of gains, how is it that the state has gone from eight congressional districts to seven and more recently, to six congressional districts?
  • Guv: “Governor Jindal announces funding hike for higher education and new workforce incentive fund.”
  • Fact: While Jindal trumpets a $141.5 million funding increase for higher ed, Bob Mann correctly points out that $88 million of that is in the form of increased tuition. “Jindal will generously allow students and their parents to pay more to attend college and will magnanimously permit those schools to keep the money,” Mann said. http://bobmannblog.com/
  • Guv: Everything in Louisiana is either great or on the upswing (from various news releases).
  • Fact: Just examine the contents of this link. http://710keel.com/louisiana-and-arkansas-among-worst-states-in-america/

So you see the trend here and it’s certainly no surprise that the Kristy Nichols “fact sheet” more closely resembles bull sheet. It seems, from the calculations provided, that Louisiana may have already joined the states of Colorado and Washington in legalizing pot. Somebody in charge seems to be smoking something.

The first month’s A&M submissions and the projected savings and our observations (in parentheses) include:

  • Electronic visit verification of at-home visits—$500,000. (First of all, what agency is this for? Second, how is this “savings” quantified? Just tossing figures out there doesn’t cut it.);
  • Curtail unnecessary spending on high cost pharmaceuticals through case management—$154,000. (Where is the Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) Kathy Kliebert? Shouldn’t she have been doing this already?);
  • Cut duplication in health care treatment through elimination of preprocessing claims—$750,000. (See previous if A&M is directing this at DHH. If it’s the Office of Group Benefits, more on that momentarily.);
  • New rate structure for patients requiring less attention than acute care but more than nursing home patients—$300,000. (Translation: cut medical benefits to the poor.);
  • Holding pediatric day care facility owners and operators accountable for management—$154,000. (You mean we weren’t doing that already either? And please explain how this constitutes a savings.);
  • Increasing occupancy bed rates—$2.5 million. (Say what? First of all, bed rates for what facilities? Second, we thought A&M was looking for savings, not increased revenue. Doesn’t that constitute a tax increase? And isn’t Jindal opposed to tax increases, even renewal of cigarette taxes? No, wait, this would be like the tuition increases, wouldn’t it? Not a tax increase, a fee increase. Different, right? Right. Got it.

We’re guessing the pea is under shell number two.

As the finale of her show and tell, Nichols proclaimed that A&M will work with the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) to find ways to make the agency more efficient.

Way to go, guys. You elbow your way in to take over what was very possibly the most efficient, well-run agency in the state to set up a revolving door of CEOs, a disappearing reserve fund balance and for the first time in many years, delays in paying claims. So now you bring in A&M to make things better—the same A&M that said the state should fire 7,500 New Orleans public school teachers following Hurricane Katrina. The state did, the teachers sued and the teachers won and now the state owes $1.5 billion as a result.

We took the four-year $5 million contract, subtracted 464 days for weekends and holidays and came up with a cost of something slightly north of $63,600 per day for A&M’s contract. At that rate, they better not be taking coffee and lunch breaks.

In unveiling his FY15 budget last week, Jindal released a nifty little PowerPoint presentation that showed the number of authorized positions in state government that had been cut during FY14. Not all the cuts resulted in layoffs, of course, because some positions that were eliminated were already vacant and there were also retirements that were not filled.

The figures show that 10,088 positions have been eliminated during the current fiscal year. Of that number 946 were in DHH, 5,998 in the Health Care Services Division, and another 2,209 were in higher education.

But wait. That same PowerPoint shows that the Executive Department (that would be the governor’s office) added 60 positions. Wait. What? Added 60 positions? So much for Jindal’s demand of state employees to do more with less.

Civil Service records show that within the Division of Administration (DOA) alone, there are 64 positions that pay $100,000 or more—a total of more than $6.8 million. Nine more, including Jindal, who work in the governor’s office, earn in excess of $100,000 per year for a total of another $1.3 million. The two highest paid are Chief of Staff Paul Rainwater ($204,400) and Ray Stockstill, listed as Director for Planning and Budget ($180,000).

Stockstill previously worked in DOA as State Director for Planning and Budget before being named Assistant Commissioner in February of 2010. He retired from that $180,000 position, effective Christmas Day of 2010 and returned to his previous position as a re-hire two days later, thus allowing him to draw retirement in addition to the $180,000 he is being paid.

Those lofty numbers do not include other employees listed in the governor’s office but who work in such areas as the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) or the Office of Financial Institutions.

So, in the spirit of economy, here’s a rock-solid suggestion that is certain to save the state a boatload of money:

Bring the A&M suits into the governor’s office and DOA, give them a mandate to cut 50 percent of that $8.1 million—not necessarily layoffs but just tell those 73 people, including the governor, to do more with less—less salary, that is. Let those administrators who are so eager to throw the rank and file employees to the curb learn firsthand what sacrifice is all about. We’re certain that with the teeming civic spirit that oozes from the fourth floor of the State Capitol, there would be unanimous consent.

That, Ms. Nichols, really would make the A&M contract pay for itself.

Now just sit back and hold your breath until that happens.

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A company holding two state contracts worth $32.8 million was the lead IT contractor of the ill-fated Affordable Health Care enrollment web page rollout late last year, LouisianaVoice has learned.

CGI Technologies and Solutions, headquartered in Quebec Province, has experienced problems with other contracts in Canada and the U.S. even before the Obamacare debacle.

The largest tech firm in Canada, CGI also has offices in the Washington, D.C. area—Fairfax and Manassas, VA., Washington and Baltimore, and is part of the CGI Group which has 72,000 employees in 400 offices worldwide—many of those in India.

CGI Technologies and Solutions was awarded a $32.5 million contract with the Office of Community Development’s (OCD) Disaster Recovery Unit (DRU) on March 2, 2012 to provide computer software hosting, support and training for OCD’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), small rental programs.

That contract is scheduled to run out on March 1, 2015.

CGI also has a $300,000 contract with the Office of Information Services to provide technical support for the Division of Administration’s (DOA) advanced financial system (AFS). That contract is set to expire on June 30.

The state also has a $20 million contract with Hunt Guillot & Associates of Ruston through OCD and DRU for grant management activities for infrastructure and other projects undertaken as a result of damages resulting from hurricanes Katrina, Rita in 2005 and Gustav and Ike in 2008.

The Hunt, Guillot contract was first issued for $18.2 million on Oct. 31, 2007—just 10 months after Gov. Bobby Jindal took office, and called for the firm to work in program design, the pre-application and application process, pre-construction and construction of projects related to hurricane recovery. That contract expired on Oct. 30, 2010, but the company was awarded a subsequent contract of $1 million on Dec. 1, 2009 which called for it to review applications for grant funds pursuant to the hazard mitigation grant.

It was not immediately clear how much, if any, overlap there might be between the CGI and Hunt, Guillot contracts, if one was intended to augment the other, or if the two are completely separate, unrelated contracts.

What is clear is that in April of 2013, less than a year ago, the Legislative Auditor issued a report which indicated the state could be on the hook for a minimum of $116 million and possibly as much as $600 million in improperly received or misspent disaster aid following Katrina and Rita.

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/04/louisiana_on_for_misspent_road.html.

State auditors reviewed 24 loans to property owners through the state’s Small Rental Property Program. The state had allocated $663 million to the program and of the 24 cases reviewed, none had been flagged as problematic by OCD. Though only 24 cases were reviewed, more than 8,000 properties benefitted from the assistance program—increasing the likelihood that the total number and amount of improper payments could go significantly higher.

OCD Executive Director Patrick Forbes said rather than attempt to chase down homeowners to retrieve the misspent funds, he intends to change OCD regulations to provide more assistance to homeowners before “triggering the recapture of funds.”

Despite that statement of intent, a month after that audit report, on May 21, the administration issued a $600,000 contract to the Baton Rouge law firm of Shows, Cali & Walsh to “review and analyze Road Home files for overpayments, ineligible grantees, etc., (and to) negotiate and collect funds due to the state.”

Shows, Cali & Wash, meanwhile, has its own problems stemming from a federal judge’s findings that it manipulated evidence in a federal lawsuit by three death row inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/01/03/baton-rouge-law-firm-with-3-million-in-state-contracts-faces-legal-sanctions-over-evidence-manipulation-in-angola-lawsuit/.

Meanwhile, the ObamaCare project—healthcare.com—disaster appears to have had caused a negative impact on employee morale at CGI, according to a staff worker who asked not to be identified. “There’s a lot of frustration,” he said. “People are getting sick, fainting in conference calls.”

Employee turnover is said to be high at CGI, making matters more complicated when trying to assemble a web page for the health-care exchange. Despite that, the upper management mentality at CGI appears to work toward establishing relations “so intimate with the client that decoupling becomes almost impossible,” according to one company profile. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/16/meet-cgi-federal-the-company-behind-the-botched-launch-of-healthcare-gov/.

CGI was hired by the Hawaii Health Connector, that state’s new health exchange for providing insurance options under ObamaCare, to build its website and the state portal, like HealthCare.gov, had immediate problems when it launched on Oct. 1, 2013. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/10/23/red-flags-company-behind-obamacare-site-has-checkered-past/.

“The morning I heard CGI was behind (the Obamacare web page development), I said, ‘My God, no wonder that thing doesn’t work,’” said James Bagnola, a Texas corporate consultant who was hired by the Hawaii Department of Taxation in 2008. “The system is broken all the time.” Bagnola said CGI was able to continue work on the Hawaii project despite repeated managerial complaints and a “corrosive environment” in which state employees felt pitted against CGI staff.

CGI’s contract to design and execute a new $46.2 million diabetes registry for eHealth Ontario, part of the Canadian government health care system, was canceled in September of 2012 after a series of delays that rendered the system obsolete.

The state of Vermont as recently as last October, meanwhile, was considering whether or not to penalize CGI for not meeting deadlines for designing and producing that state’s health care exchange as per an $84 million contract with the company.

It may be too early to say that there is an “ominous pattern” of inferior work product from CGI as claimed by some http://www.examiner.com/article/is-cgi-and-white-house-liable-for-obamacare-massive-site-failure and http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/fobbs/131028 but there can be no denial that the failed debut of the ObamaCare web page has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Which raises the obvious question: What quality of work Louisiana is receiving from the firm? Considering last April’s findings of the Legislative Auditor in its examination of the Road Home program, that’s a fair question.

Contractors are being paid tens of millions of dollars to provide oversight of the grant programs in the hurricane recovery efforts. But what oversight is being provided of the contractors themselves? And if the contractors need oversight, why are they even in the equation to begin with?

How do we know they are doing the jobs they are being paid to do?

If we are to believe the auditor’s report, they well may not be giving the state a return on its dollar.

Are contracts simply being doled out by the Jindal administration with little or no vetting? When one looks at some of the other contracts awarded since 2008, there seems to be ample cause for concern.

All one has to do is study the administration’s smarmy record of questionable contracts, beginning with the hiring of Goldman Sachs to help write the request for proposals (RFP) for the privatization of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB). Who was the sole bidder on that project at the outset before the project was re-bid? Goldman Sachs. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/12/01/jindal-and-rainwater-preoccupied-with-ogb-privatization-missed-or-chose-to-ignore-obvious-cnsi-contract-red-flags/

And then there was the infamous contract with CNSI http://www.frontpagemag.com/2013/volpe/billionaire-swindlers-line-up-for-obamacare/

and the ensuing investigation by the FBI  http://tomaswell.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/fbireportscnsi3.pdf

http://tomaswell.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/dt-common-streams-streamserver1.pdf and the Louisiana Attorney General’s office http://tomaswell.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/ldoj-interview-report-on-cnsi-from-0514121.pdf

There also is a series of contracts with Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), since absorbed by Xerox. ACS, once represented by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy’s sister-in-law Jan Cassidy who now works for the Division of Administration (DOA) as Assistant Commissioner in Procurement and Technology at an annual salary of $150,000). http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jan-cassidy/6/4aa/703

ACS also has its own string of problems as evidenced by stories from other states http://louisianavoice.com/2013/03/15/doa-hires-jan-cassidy-sister-in-law-of-cong-bill-cassidy-at-150000-previous-employers-records-are-less-than-stellar/ and with the Securities Exchange Commission http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2010/lr21643.htm

Not to be outdone, Deloitte Consulting which helped the state in planning for a comprehensive consolidation of information technology (IT) services for DOA, was named winner of the state contract for “Information Technology Planning and Management Support Services,” according to an email announcement that went out to IT employees last September.

Never mind the fact that Deloitte Consulting has experienced a multitude of problems in North Carolina, California, Tennessee, and Virginia because of delays, false starts and cost overruns. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/09/05/surprise-surprise-gomer-deloitte-wins-it-contract-after-spending-year-consulting-with-state-on-consolidation-plan/

And yet this governor is so unyielding in his misguided belief that the private sector can perform any and every governmental function better than public employees that now, six years into his eight-year term, he has decided pay yet another contractor, the international consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, $4 million to conduct an efficiency study to determine possible savings in state government.

Clueless, thy name is Jindal.

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