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Archive for the ‘OGB, Office of Group Benefits’ Category

“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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Cue Queen and crank up Another One Bites the Dust.

Charles Calvi and Patrick Powers are leaving the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and Susan West, late of the Office of Risk Management has been named Interim CEO—the fourth person to head OGB in less than three years.

Meanwhile, that $540 million reserve fund balance OGB had on hand to pay benefits at the time of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s infamous raping of the agency now sit at $240 million and is dwindling at a rate of $20 million per month, no doubt the result of Jindal’s 7 percent premium reduction six months before the January 2013 takeover of OGB by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Louisiana.

But not to worry. In one of the administration’s now routine Friday press releases (so that the impact of the story is lost over the weekend when newspaper readership is down), Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols announced that (drum roll, please) Alvarez and Marsal (A&M) will be working with West in efforts to “continue the transformation and redesign of OGB.”

Bear in mind that OGB was one of those state agencies that was doing quite well in paying health care benefits to some 250,000 state employees, retirees and dependents. That included building up that half-billion dollar reserve fund while paying claims in a timely manner (average turnaround of three days) that kept both claimants and providers happy. But somehow, the administration deemed it in need of “transformation and redesign” and now health care providers are being asked to wait longer for payment of claims and BCBS is asking the state to waive the service level agreements and performance guarantees in place for Claims Timeliness and to not impose financial penalties for payments made later than 30 days during January and February.

http://theadvocate.com/home/8151593-125/state-insurance-claims-payments-delayed

But back to Alvarez and Marsal. That’s the company Jindal recently hired for $4.2 million to find presumed savings of $500 million in state expenditures by April—except it turns out there was nothing in the contract alluding to any $500 million savings; it was in the cover letter but not the contract. After being caught with her knickers down, Nichols, who initially assured legislators that the contract did indeed call for the $500 million savings, has said the contract will be amended to contain the language. Good for her. Oh, wait. It turns out that amendment also added another $800,000 to the contract, boosting it to $5 million. Yipee.

Alvarez and Marsal, you may remember from a previous LouisianaVoice post, was the firm that advised the state to fire 7,500 public school teachers in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/01/17/firms-advice-to-fire-orleans-teachers-after-katrina-may-cost-taxpayers-1-5b-hired-for-4m-by-jindal-to-save-state-money/

When those teachers were not called back and instead were replaced by new teachers, they sued and won and now the state is on the hook for about $1.5 billion, give or take a couple of dollars.

So now this firm is awarded a $4.2 million contract to do what the brilliant minds of all those Jindal appointees apparently could not do. Alvarez and Marsal is going to send its suits to Baton Rouge to figure out what the Legislative Fiscal Office cannot. If the fiasco in New Orleans is indicative of its work, will the last one out of Baton Rouge please turn out the lights? On second thought, never mind; Entergy will have already disconnected the meter.

On April 15, 2011, Tommy Teague, the man responsible for OGB’s accumulating that $500 million reserve fund and who, by all accounts, ran a highly efficient agency known for its rapid turnaround on claims payments and satisfied claimants, was summarily fired when he did not jump on board the Jindal privatization train. Within six weeks, his replacement, Scott Kipper resigned in frustration or disgust—or both—and was replaced with Calvi. So now OGB CEO Charles Calvi and his $170,000 salary and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Powers ($107,000) are leaving voluntarily, headed to Metairie to work for Teague and the Louisiana Health Care Exchange.

West, the fourth person to head OGB in three years, previously as ORM’s administrator for loss prevention, underwriting and statistics where she was responsible for policy development, risk financing and premium development and allocation. Before that, she served as a claims manager for multiple lines of insurance provided by ORM, the agency that insures all state agencies.

Oddly enough, in her announcement of West as the Interim CEO, Nichols never once alluded to the departure of Calvi or Powers. LouisianaVoice learned of their leaving through other sources. Calvi’s leaving, whether voluntary or involuntary, was not difficult to figure out after West was announced as his replacement, albeit without benefit of an accompanying announcement of his exodus. http://www.doa.louisiana.gov/doa/PressReleases/New_OGB_Interim_CEO_Susan_West.htm

It was certainly a ham-handed way of announcing West’s appointment with no explanation of Calvi or Power’s leaving. Nothing would surprise us though, given the manner in which this administration tends to handle such matters with all the subtlety of Larry, Moe and Curly trying to administer a cold buttermilk enema to a feral cat.

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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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One probably can understand former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater for not putting the kibosh on that ill-fated $194 million contract with CNSI in mid-2011. Rainwater was, after all, preoccupied at the time with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s priority project, that of privatizing the Office of Group Benefits (OGB).

You may remember the controversy surrounding the OGB privatization push. First, the state brought in Goldman Sachs to help write the specifications of the request for proposals (RFP) for the privatization scheme and then (drum roll please) Goldman Sachs was the only bidder at $6 million.

After Goldman Sachs subsequently withdrew in a dispute over the issue of indemnification, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana finally got the bid but in between all that, there was that $49,999.99 contract to Chaffe and Associates for a study that failed to produce the results sought by the administration—not to mention questions about the possibility of the existence of two Chaffe reports. http://louisianavoice.com/2011/06/20/was-leaked-chaffe-report-real-or-a-doa-misdirecton-ploy/

Then there was the little matter of Rainwater’s own confirmation hearings and that of a new OGB director before the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that almost certainly demanded much of Rainwater’s attention.

But the confirmation hearing for Bruce Greenstein as Secretary of Health and Hospitals by the same committee a week later should have served as a red flag and should have set off all sorts of alarms within the Jindal administration—beginning with Rainwater.

http://louisianavoice.com/2011/06/09/jindals-appointees-arrogant-bureaucrats-or-simply-a-multitude-of-misunderstood-misbehavin-miscreants/

The warnings were clear and the track record of CNSI was readily available. Apparently no one in this administration ever heard of vetting a company before awarding it the largest single contract in the state’s history.

That, it turned out, was a mistake of monumental proportions.

The details of the awarding of the contract to Greenstein’s former employer now reads like some kind of Tom Clancy espionage novel—complete with secret communications, bid-rigging, lavish entertainment of state officials, death threats, creative accounting principles, money laundering, ghost employees, payments of non-existent loans, posh homes of questionable ownership, possible tax evasion, and claims of an ancestral link between Gov. Jindal’s Indian heritage and CNSI’s Indian ownership. dt.common.streams.StreamServer

Throw in the fact that CNSI is one of the subcontractors working on the Obamacare website, and you’ve got all the makings of a real suspense story.

To say the CNSI story is complex would be to belabor the obvious which is all the more reason that Jindal and Rainwater should have taken a closer look at the qualifications of CNSI before committing to such a contract.

It turns out that every state might want to take a long, hard look at CNSI’s credentials now that the company is in position to bid on billions in new contracts with individual states that, in order to receive new grants for expanded Medicaid rolls, will be required to update outdated IT systems in order to more readily share data. Michael Volpe recently had a story that dealt with that very issue in Frontpage Mag. http://www.frontpagemag.com/2013/volpe/billionaire-swindlers-line-up-for-obamacare/

In examining CNSI, these states might wish to begin with Maryland where CNSI’s problems began as far back as 2001. In was that year that Maryland hired CNSI to develop its new web-based Main Medicaid Claims System for the processing of $1.5 billion per year in Medicaid Claims. CNSI has submitted the lower of two bids for the project. The company’s $15 million bid was exactly half the $30 million bid by the other company. Experts say the state should have known right then that the low number of bidders and the disparity between bids were red flags.

CNSI, it turned out, had zero experience in developing Medicaid claims systems. It was given 12 months to develop the system, which was finally put online in January of 2005, three years late.

Problems occurred almost immediately. The company’s costs quickly grew to $25 million but even worse for the state, there were an unusually high number of rejected claims from the outset and the number of suspended claims quickly reached 300,000—a rejection rate of about 50 percent—and by June the number had grown to 647,000, representing about $310 million in back payments to medical providers. Some facilities had to close their doors because of non-payments while others had to take out loans to keep their doors open and others simply stopped seeing Medicaid patients altogether.

In 2008, South Dakota awarded CNSI a $62.7 million contract for a new Medicaid processing system. By 2010—nearly a year before Louisiana hired CNSI—work was halted on the project after costs had grown to $80 million and the system was still two to three years from completion.

A year ago, the Southeast Michigan Health Information Exchange (SEMHIE) filed suit against CNSI over a $1.8 million contract to develop a Social Security e-Disability project for SEMHIE. One of the stipulations of that contract was that any software developed for the project would become the property of SEMHIE. The lawsuit says that SEMHIE “repeatedly, both orally and in writing,” demanded delivery of the software but that CNSI has refused to turn over the software or even to communicate with SEMHIE.

SEMHIE says it had been negotiating to provide the Michigan Health Information Network (MHIN) with the software but that CNSI’s refusal to turn it over resulted in MHIN’s termination of the agreement, thereby costing SEMHIE “substantial” revenue.

The latest twist in the CNSI saga is that the State of Arkansas has, on the basis of the FBI investigation of CNSI’s contract with Louisiana, disqualified CNSI from doing business with that state.

But the really interesting details of the CNSI contract and the company’s links to former employee Greenstein, who was DHH Secretary at the time the contract was awarded, can be found in a series of interviews conducted by the FBI in Maryland FBIReportsCNSI in which two former employees, Vice President and Corporate Counsel Matthew Hoffman and Vice President of Accounting and Finance Jeffrey Weisenborne, reported bookkeeping irregularities, falsification of asset statements to bankers, the purchase of secret homes in Maine, Michigan and Washington State which were not carried on the CNSI books, non-existent loans for which the four CNSI partners received monthly payments, the hiring of CNSI partners’ family members who did no work, bid-rigging, and threats to Hoffman that he would be killed if he disclosed company misconduct. dt.common.streams.StreamServer

The Louisiana Attorney General’s office also conducted an interview with a CNSI employ who originally was a contract employee but who was subsequently hired full time by the company. The employee, identified only as Kunego, which was said to be a pseudonym, was conducted on May 10—11, 2012.

He testified that CNSI’s bid was structured so that it could “shave off” about $40 million from its bid, thus allowing the company to win the contract after which it could get the terms of the contract changed. “In many states this alone would lead to disqualification of the CNSI proposal,” he said. Additionally, he said DHH “front-loaded” the contract, meaning CNSI got money up front because “CNSI was close to being insolvent and needed this change to keep them afloat.”

Kunego said in January of 2011 he and CNSI officials were in North Dakota to prepare their pricing for the Louisiana proposal when they were told by CNSI cofounder and CEO Bishwajeet Chatterjee that the number they had to beat was under $199 million. “This indicated that CNSI officers knew ahead of time the dollar amount that they had to propose to win the contract,” he said.

“After the contract was awarded and during the protest period, Greenstein went to DC (Washington) and was picked up by CNSI officers and entertained to dinner,” the witness said.

He said that during the Greenstein confirmation hearings, CNSI Vice President of Government Affairs Creighton Carroll “was very concerned that the Senate committee would subpoena their phone records.” Carroll told Kunego that they deleted many text messages between CNSI officers and Greenstein “to avoid them being subpoenaed.” Moreover, he said Carroll used his wife’s cell phone for most of the “off channel communications” with Greenstein.

Also during the Greenstein confirmation hearings, CNSI’s lobbyist Alton Ashy was texting Greenstein in an effort to help him with his answers to questions being asked by committee members.

Kunego said that when Greenstein worked for CNSI he lived in a CNSI-owned townhome and that he “got the impression from Chatterjee that Greenstein had ownership in CNSI.” He said 80 percent of CNSI is owned by the four founders—Chatterjee, Chief Strategic Officer Adnan Ahmed, Chief Financial Officer Jaytee Kanwal, and Chief Administrative Officer Reet Singh—while the remaining 20 percent is owned by 23 different people.

The Attorney General report quoted Kunego as saying Jindal has “an India to India ancestor-driven background and network of connectors that brought CNSI and Jindal together” (a characterization the governor’s office labeled as “insulting”) and that “Jindal’s public persona does not jive (sic) with what is going on at DHH.” LDOJ Interview Report on CNSI from 051412

Finally, we have to raise a couple of other questions here about the sequence of events that don’t exactly shine the best light on the Jindal administration.

Was the timing of the personnel change in the Division of Administration (DOA) coincidental or was it somehow tied to the pending investigation?

Rainwater was brought over to the governor’s office on Oct. 15, 2012, to serve as Jindal’s Chief of Staff and has not been heard from since while Deputy Chief of Staff Kristy Nichols left the governor’s office to move across the street to the Claiborne Building to take over Rainwater’s former duties.

In January, the FBI served a subpoena on DOA for all records pertaining to the CNSI bid and contract, including the RFP. And while Jindal certainly knew of the subpoena (and if he did not know, Nichols should be run off by a mean, biting dog for not informing her boss), the subpoena did not become public knowledge until early March. Once the news broke, Jindal acted with all deliberate speed (and yes, that’s sarcasm) to announce the termination of the contract, saying his administration would “not tolerate corruption.”

A week after that, Greenstein announced his resignation, but incredibly, was allowed to remain on the job for another month.

So, did the administration initiate the personnel change at DOA in October in anticipation of the FBI and Attorney General investigations and the subpoena that would come down in three months?

Why did the administration try to keep a lid on the news of the subpoena for some two months and cancel the CNSI contract only when the subpoena’s existence became public knowledge?

And most important: why was Greenstein allowed to remain on the job for a full month after news of the subpoena and the cancellation of the CNSI contract?

Something here just doesn’t pass the smell test.

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Ten companies have responded to that request for proposals (RFP) calling for the consolidation of information technology (IT) but because of the number of submissions, the scheduled awarding of the contract was moved back “seven to 14 days,” according to an email to bidders by Neal Underwood, assistant director of Statewide Technology.

One of the vendors being mentioned as the potential winner of the contract, expected to be worth millions of dollars, is Deloitte Consultants, one of three companies that met regularly with Division of Administration (DOA) representatives and state IT executives over the past year in discussions of what services they could provide the state.

Moreover, a confidential source said a Deloitte representative has already confided in several persons that the company “had a good shot” at winning the contract because it had been meeting with state officials over the past year.

That scenario evokes memories of the privatization of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) a couple of years back. DOA brought Goldman Sachs in to help formulate the RFP for the privatization and the Wall Street banking firm was subsequently the lone bidder—at $6 million.

Goldman Sachs subsequently withdrew from the project in a dispute over indemnification but re-bid when the RFP was issued a second time. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana eventually landed the contract to administer the agency’s claims.

So now we have Deloitte working with state officials for a year to help formulate the RFP and the company is now said to have the inside track to winning the contract. Déjà vu all over again.

At least two other companies, including IBM, were said to have held meetings with the state in the months leading up to the issuance of the RFP. One of those reported to have attended those meetings was Northrop Grumman but that company was not one of the 10 companies submitting proposals, sources say.

Several other companies reportedly requested permission to attend the pre-proposal meetings but were denied the opportunity.

The meetings would seem to fly in the face of a July 19 memorandum from Richard “Dickie” Howze, interim state chief information officer, to DOA section heads and Council of Information Services directors in which he cautioned against any contact with potential vendors during the RFP process at the risk of possible termination.

“During this procurement process it is crucial that you and your staff do not have any contact with vendors who are potential proposers or who may be part of a proposals as a subcontractor regarding this RFP or other related RFPs,” the memo read.

Besides Deloitte and IBM, companies submitting proposals included Dell Marketing, First Data, Gabriel Systems, Information Services Group (ISG), KPMG, Peak Performance Technologies, RNR Consulting and Tecknomic.

Even though the RFP was only for “Information Technology Planning and Management Support Services,” the state wrote into the RFP that the vendor awarded the planning RFP would not be precluded from the implementation of the consolidation, in effect guaranteeing the winner of the planning contract the contract for implementation of the plans.

It also alluded to recommendations for “potential legislation to support effective implementation and administration” for “effective governance models for the statewide centralized IT services organization.”

It was not immediately clear why “potential legislation” would not have been addressed during the 2013 legislative session and prior to the issuance of the RFP as opposed to issuing a contract and then attempting to address legislative issues as they arose during the course of the contract.

In conjunction with the RFP, DOA also issued a request for information (RFI) for business reorganization (and) efficiencies planning and implementation consulting services which would seem to be an exercise in redundancy given the fact that a similar efficiency study was conducted during the tenure of former Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis and that yet another such study is already underway using Six Sigma methodology.

Six Sigma is a methodology that employs tools and techniques for process improvement. The concept was pioneered by Motorola in 1981 and is widely used in different sectors of industry.

Just as with the RFP for the planning and management support services, several vendors responded with proposals. Oral presentations, as with the RFP, however, were limited to a select few companies, including Deloitte, McKinsey & Co., Alvarez & Marsal and CGI Technologies.

McKinsey & Co. is primarily an organization offering internships to trainees for conservative political causes. Gov. Bobby Jindal, who seems hell bent on privatizing virtually every agency and service in state government, worked for McKinsey & Co. for less than a year in the only private sector job he has ever held.

The RFI required that vendors, among other things, present their approach/methodology to identify operational efficiencies, experiences in other governmental settings, and the areas of governmental services “that would produce the maximum benefit.”

Portia Johnson, executive assistant to Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, sent an email to companies who submitted responses to the RFI. That email said:

“Thank you for your interest in RFI 107:01-000001238 Business Reorganization Efficiencies Planning and Implementation Consulting Services. Due to the vast response and in the interest of time, the State has chosen several vendors representative of the industry to interview. Although you have not been selected to proceed in the process, we have taken any documents submitted by you under advisement.”

Said another way: “You have been eliminated for consideration because we have other vendors with whom we prefer to do business. But we are going to go through your proposals and we will probably steal some of your ideas and you won’t get a dime for your efforts. Thank you for your trouble.”

  • CNSI and the federal investigation of its $200 million contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and the ensuing resignation of DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein, who had maintained continued contact with his old bosses at CNSI during the bidding, selection and contract awarding processes;
  • Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF) and its inside track advantage by virtue of its CEO/President also serving on the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, which issued the contract to BRF to run the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe;
  • Goldman Sachs helping to write the RFP for the takeover of OGB and subsequently being the only bidder on the RFP;
  • Meetings between state officials and vendors for a year leading up to the issuance of an RFP for the consolidation of IT services in more than 20 departments within the state’s executive branch;

Folks, we’re beginning to detect a pattern here.

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It was supposed to save the state some $40 million.

It cost more than 100 dedicated, efficient state employees their jobs.

It was supposed to be the best thing for the state even though studies commissioned by the Jindal administration said it was not a good deal.

It was such a great idea that the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) reduced its premium rates by 7 percent last July, six months before Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBS) was scheduled to take over as third party administrator for OGB’s Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). And if it was going to save $40 million, why not reduce rates?

Well, for one reason, since BCBS took over in January, that alluring $500 million reserve fund that former OGB Director Tommy Teague had helped the agency build up is now said to be less than half that amount because expenditures (claims payments) have been outpacing revenues (premiums).

Except no one really knows because the administration has not provided the monthly reports.

Our open, accountable and transparent administration has not been forthcoming with financial information on the agency.

We can’t seem to see any early evidence of that $40 million savings.

When revenues don’t keep up, BCBS has been forced to dip into the reserve fund to pay claims. Obviously, when the fund is depleted, there is just one way out for BCBS: increase premiums.

That’s not exactly an unexpected development. In fact, a retired OGB employee said last October the rate reduction was a formula for fiscal irresponsibility. “The program operated at a small deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010 (before the premium rate reduction), and is almost guaranteed a significant loss for Fiscal Year 2013 with the 7 percent reduction,” he said.

“The only reason that premiums could be reduced was the fact that the program had a significant surplus. For the current fiscal year, the program will be operating on its surplus for significant portion of the current year’s operating expenses…but this cannot go on forever,” he said.

“It is another example of using one-time funds to pay for continuing operations of the state. Once the reserve fund is exhausted, rates will need to be increased significantly to cover continuing operations.”

A member of the OGB board of directors requested copies of February’s monthly financial statement several weeks ago but has met only with frustration.

It can’t be that the report is not ready; word coming out of the agency is that not only is the February report complete, but the monthly report for March as well is complete.

Funny thing about this is that financials has always been provided to board members in the past. Suddenly things have changed.

With that in mind, we decided to submit our own request pursuant to the Louisiana public records laws.

In past requests for records from the Division of Administration, we have encountered delays and stonewalling that would test the patience of the Dalai Lama. DOA consistently offers the lame excuse that DOA personnel are “searching for records and reviewing them for exemptions and privileges.”

Anticipating the usual foot dragging, we submitted the following request:

From: Tom Aswell [mailto:azspeak@cox.net]
Sent: Monday, April 15, 2013 3:55 PM
To: doacommissioner@la.gov
Subject: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

• Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana (R.S. 44:1 et seq.), I respectfully request the following information:

• Please allow me the opportunity to review the monthly financial statements for the Office of Group Benefits for February and March of 2013.

• And please do not insult my intelligence by giving me your B.S. stock response (below) that you are “searching for records and reviewing them for exemptions and privileges.” You and I both know this is not privileged information and it certainly is not exempt. I will call on you Tuesday to review the documents. Any delays on your part will be met with prompt legal action.

Our most recent public records request to DOA was on March 10. Here is DOA’s response:

From: Joshua Melder [mailto:Joshua.Melder@la.gov]
Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2013 4:53 PM
To: ‘azspeak@cox.net’
Cc: David Boggs (DOA)
Subject: RE: PRR BenefitFocus

Mr. Aswell,

We are still searching for records and reviewing them for exemptions and privileges. Once finished, we will contact you regarding delivery of the records. At that time, all non-exempt records will be made available to you. As of now, we will not be ready to produce records on Monday.

Regards,

Joshua Paul Melder
Attorney
Division of Administration
Office of General Counsel

Under Louisiana’s public records laws, public agencies, from town hall to the governor’s office, have three days in which to provide requested records or to respond in writing why the records are not available and when they will be available.

Here is that March 10 request for which we still are waiting for the records:

From: Tom Aswell [mailto:azspeak@cox.net]
Sent: Sunday, March 10, 2013 9:19 PM
To: doacommissioner@la.gov
Subject: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana (R.S. 44:1 et seq.), I respectfully submit the following request:
Please provide me the opportunity to review the following information dating back to July 1, 2012:

• all written (email and traditional mail) correspondence between the Division of Administration (DOA) or any of its representatives, spokespersons and/or agents and BenefitFocus or any of its representatives, spokespersons and/or agents relative to any contract, Request for Proposal or any other contractual or business relationship between DOA and BenefitFocus or between the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and BenefitFocus;

• all written (email and traditional mail) correspondence between the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) or any of its representatives, spokespersons and/or agents and BenefitFocus or any of its representatives, spokespersons and/or agents relative to any contract, Request for Proposal or any other contractual or business relationship between OGB and BenefitFocus or between DOA and BenefitFocus;

• all written (email and traditional mail) correspondence between the Division of Administration (DOA) or any of its representatives, spokespersons and/or agents and the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) or any of its representatives, spokespersons and/or agents relative to any contract, Request for Proposal or any other contractual or business relationship between DOA and BenefitFocus or between OGB and BenefitFocus.

We will keep you posted on how this silly, unnecessary drama plays out.

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Copyright Tom Aswell 2013

It’s interesting to watch legislators beat their breasts over pay raises that some state agencies awarded to classified (civil service) employees in light of their past ambivalence when the Jindal administration pumped up the payroll with highly-paid unclassified political appointees.

Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon and Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain, for example, gave 4 percent raises to their rank and file classified employees—$540,000 in raises in the case of the Insurance Department that Donelon said came from self-generated funds from his office.

Strain and Donelon said they gave the raises because he had the money in his budget and that he was required to either give the raises or sign a civil service letter certifying that there were no funds available.

That didn’t stop Reps. Simone Champagne (R-Erath) and John Schroder (R-Covington) from criticizing the pay bumps because there have been no across the board merit increases in state government for more than four years now. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/03/la_statewide_elected_officials.html

But where have they been the past couple of years as Jindal appointed one washed-up legislator after another to six-figure deadhead jobs in state agencies like Insurance, Revenue, Veterans Affairs, Home Security and others while rank and file employees—the ones who do the work— continue into their fifth year with no raise at an average salary of a little under $40,000? http://louisianavoice.com/2012/02/

For that matter, where have any of the legislators been as the Department of Education has continued unabated in its relentless drive to pad its payroll with six-figure sycophants?

Are Gov. Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White so arrogant or so out of touch that they feel they can continue to load the state payroll with top-heavy, largely out-of-state political appointees—many of whom, it turns out don’t even bother to register to vote in Louisiana or comply with state law that requires that they change their vehicle registrations within certain specified deadlines—without the public or media noticing?

A quick peek indicates that some of the unclassified salaries seem to proliferate in the Department of Education:

• John White, Superintendent: $275,000;

• Michael Rounds, Deputy Superintendent: $170,000;

• Howard Drake and Gayle Sloan, Liaison Officers: $160,000 each;

• Kerry Laster, Executive Officer: $155,000;

• David Lefkowith, precise title still a mystery: $146,000;

• Kunjan Narechania, Chief of Staff to John White: $145,000;

• Gary Jones, Executive Officer: $145,000;

• Deirdre Finn, part time PR Director (working from home in Tallahassee, FL.): $144,000;

• James P. Wilson, Director (of what?): $142,000;

• Melissa Stilley, Liaison Officer: $135,000;

• Elizabeth Scioneaux, Deputy Superintendent: $132,800;

• Debra Schum, Executive Officer: $132,000;

• Hannah Dietsch, Assistant Superintendent (someone please explain the difference between an assistant superintendent and a deputy superintendent.): $130,000;

• Nicholas Bolt, Deputy Chief of Staff (as opposed to assistant chief of staff): $105,000.

Perhaps you may have noticed in that lengthy laundry list of high-paying position, there was not a single name followed by the title “Instructor” or any other title that would indicate classroom experience.

But even with all the featherbedding at DOE, there’s one appointment in particular in the Division of Administration (DOA) that stands out as the poster child for Jindal cronyism.

Last Dec. 3, Jan Cassidy was hired by 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

It was not immediately clear what she is supposed to procure since a statewide expenditure freeze was in place at the time of her hiring. Moreover, technology, in theory at least, is handled by the Office of Computing Services.

The fact that Cassidy is the sister-in-law of Congressman Bill Cassidy is enough to raise eyebrows in some quarters. Bill Cassidy last year hired Jindal aide and former campaign manager Tim Teepell and his company, OnMessage, for his re-election campaign. Teepell was hired by the Washington-area political consulting firm to head up its Southern Office which Teepell appears to run out of the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. Cassidy later terminated his relationship with Teepell and OnMessage. No explanation was given.

Jan Cassidy worked for Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) for 20 months, from June 2009 to January 2011 and for 23 months, from January 2011 to November 2012 for Xerox after Xerox purchased ACS.

As Xerox Vice President—State of Louisiana Client Executive, her tenure was during a time that the company held two large contracts with the state.

The first was a $20 million contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) that ran from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011. That contract called for Xerox to provide “assessment, reassessment and care planning to individuals seeking and receiving long term personal care services.” The contract, which paid Xerox $834,000 per month, also required the company to disseminate “appropriate notices to recipients relative to these aforementioned services.

The contract was funded 50 percent by the state and 50 percent from federal funds—despite Jindal’s professed disdain for federal funds.

The second contract of $74.5 million, 100 percent of which was funded by a federal community development block grant and which ran from March 27, 2009 to March 26, 2012,, required ACS/Xerox to administer a small rental property program to help hurricane damaged parishes recover rental units.

Cassidy’s responsibilities while at Xerox called for her to “facilitate development and progress of ‘Louisiana Model’ into other states,” according to information contained in her internet biography.

During her 20 months with ACS, from June 2009 to January 2011, she was Regional Vice President of Business Development. Her web page says that while at ACS, she “generated new business in state governments within the central region of the United States.”

A search of the state contract data base by LouisianaVoice turned up four contracts with ACS totaling $45.55 million and campaign finance reports revealed ACS political contributions of $17,500 to Louisiana candidates, including three contributions totaling $10,000 to Jindal.

One of those contracts, which expired on Dec. 31, 2012, called for ACS to provide actuary and consulting services to the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and Buck Consultants during the administration’s efforts to privatize OGB at a contract cost of $2 million. That is in addition to what the state paid Buck for its work which in the final analysis, did not support the administration’s efforts which were nevertheless successful.

Current state contracts with ACS/Xerox include:

$600,000 with between DOA and ACS Human Resources Solutions and Buck Consultants to assist in advising DOA with regard to public retirement systems and insurance benefits for public employees (June 1, 2011 to June 1, 2013);

$13.95 million with the Department of Social Services to provide electronic benefits transfer system (July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2009);

$28.9 million with DHH to provide information and referral services to people seeking long term care services (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014; 50 percent federal, 50% state funding).

But while Jan Cassidy’s work for a company with more than $120 million in state contracts and her relationship as Bill Cassidy’s sister-in-law might be enough to raise eyebrows among observers of Louisiana politics, the track record of ACS in other governmental contracts beyond the state’s borders should certainly prompt hard questions:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a vocal critic of Obamacare as a “failed program,” had his Health and Human Services Commission contract with ACS for that state’s Medicaid dental program. That contract quadrupled to $1.4 billion as Texas Medicaid spent more on braces in 2010 ($184 million) than did the other 49 states combined. But an audit found that 90 percent of reimbursement requests involved procedures not covered by Medicaid, which does not fund cosmetic dentistry. The Wall Street Journal said statewide fraud reached hundreds of millions of dollars. ACS spent more than $6.9 million in lobbying Texas politicians from 2002 to 2012 and contributed $150,000 to Perry. Because ACS contracts to process Medicaid claims for several states, including Louisiana, one investigator indicated the problem may run much deeper than that found in Texas. http://info.tpj.org/Lobby_Watch/pdf/MedicaidDentalFraud.pdf
http://www.wfaa.com/news/investigates/Texas-Medicaid-Problems-May-Apply-To-Country–133719543.html

In Alabama, Carol Steckel, then the director of the state Medicaid agency, awarded a $3.7 million contract to ACS in 2007 even though the ACS bid was $500,000 more than the next bid. ACS, however, had a decided edge: it hired Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s former chief of staff Toby Roth. And Carol Steckel? She now works as chief of Louisiana’s DHH Center for Health Care Innovation and Technology. http://www.ihealthbeat.org/articles/2007/8/22/Alabama-Contract-for-Medicaid-Database-Sparks-Controversy.aspx
http://harpers.org/blog/2007/09/the-inside-track-to-contracts-in-alabama/

In Washington, D.C., the Department of Motor Vehicles reimbursed $17.8 million to persons wrongly given parking tickets. The contractor that operated the District’s ticket processing? ACS. http://www.questia.com/library/1G1-86379580/overbilled-drivers-to-get-cash-back-dmv-plans-to

In June of 2007, ACS agreed to pay the federal government $2.6 million to settle allegations that it had submitted inflated charges for services provided through the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Labor, and Health and Human Services. ACS admitted that it had submitted inflated claims to a local agency that delivered services to workers using funds provided by the three federal agencies. http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2007/07/11/acs-settles-federal-fraud-case.aspx

In 2010, ACS settled charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had backdated stock option grants to its officers and employees. http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2010/lr21643.htm
Jan Cassidy also worked for 19 years, from 1986 to 2005, with Unisys Corp. where she led a team of sales professionals marketing hardware and systems applications, “as well as consulting services to Louisiana State Government,” according to her website.

Unisys had five separate state contracts from 2002 to 2009 totaling $53.9 million, the largest of which ($21 million) was with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and which was originally signed to run from April 1, 2008 through Nov. 30, 2009, but which the state cancelled in April of 2009.

The contract was for work to upgrade the state computer system that dealt with driver’s licenses, vehicle titles and other related issues within Louisiana’s Office of Motor Vehicles. http://www.wafb.com/global/story.asp?s=10152623

State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson cancelled the contract, telling legislators that he was dissatisfied with the work and that he believed his staff could complete the project.

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New claims of possible bid rigging and unfair trade practices within the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and the Division of Administration (DOA), have surfaced in a two-page letter sent to the U.S. Attorney’s office and to LouisianaVoice this week.

OGB is a multi-billion dollar agency which administers health benefit claims for state employees, retirees and their dependents.

If true, it would be the third time in less than two years that insider negotiations have been conducted between a potential bidder, OGB and DOA preparatory to DOA’s issuing a request for proposals (RFP).

A copy of the unsigned, undated letter also was addressed to State Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) and to Louisiana Inspector General (IG) Stephen Street, though the writer expressed skepticism over any anticipated action by the IG’s office.

“I am writing as a concerned citizen who has had enough,” the letter said. “I write out of concern that there is something fundamentally wrong with the operations of the Division of Administration. I included the Inspector General out of protocol, but not with the expectation that he will act.”

The letter accused DOA, through OGB of engaging “in a pattern of behavior that has to be, at the very least, unethical” in its dealings with a South Carolina company.

“Within the past few months, the staff of the Office of Group Benefits has been instructed to conduct multiple meetings with a business called BenefitFocus (which is in the business of group health eligibility activity).

“The problem with these meetings is that the blatantly expressed reason for the meetings is the preparation of an RFP on which the company will then bid.

“In fact, in the last meeting,” the writer said, “there was an open discussion on how to either construct an RFP that will yield the company an insurmountable advantage or (that would) make the company a ‘sole source’ vendor that will eliminate competition.”

BenefitFocus is headquartered in Charleston, S.C. and its web page describes it as “the country’s leading provider of benefits technology.” It claims more than 18 million members and 300,000 employers who manage “all types of benefits” through the company which “provides employers, insurance carriers, consumers and government entities with cloud-based technology to shop, enroll, manage and exchange benefits information.

“BenefitFocus clients include small, medium and large employers from all industries, as well as the nation’s top insurance companies,” the website says.

Among the clients listed were Blue Cross/Blue Shield in several states, including Louisiana.
The anonymous writer described the activity between OGB and BenefitFocus as a “pattern,” saying such events have occurred at least twice before.

“The first instance was when OGB (by order of DOA) was looking for a financial advisor. The eventual successful vendor was Goldman Sachs, who had participated in multiple OGB meetings before the bid process and who even had the audacity to help write the RFP,” the letter said.

On April 13, 2011, CNS learned that Goldman Sachs had been active in discussions about the planned privatization of OGB as far back as October or November of 2010. That was about the same time that the idea of privatizing OGB was first floated to then-OGB CEO Tommy Teague in a meeting between then-Deputy Commissioner of Administration Mark Brady, Teague and four representatives of Goldman Sachs.

Teague was fired two days after LouisianaVoice published that story.

When it came time to open the proposals for the project, Goldman Sachs was the only bidder and stood to receive $6 million in fees for its services, whether it was successful in finding a buyer for OGB or not.

Gov. Bobby Jindal eventually rejected the Goldman Sachs bid after details of the Wall Street banking firm’s involvement were made public and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana was ultimately awarded the contract to serve as a third party administrator over OGB’s preferred provider (PPO) organization. BCBS also administers other claims for OGB under a separate contract.

“Earlier in 2012, the letter said, “OGB staff was directed to have multiple meetings with Extend Health, a company in the Medicare Advantage exchange business. The staff attended the meetings and helped answer background questions.

“In later activity with the company, an RFP was drafted (a very narrow drafting) that gave Extend Health a nearly sickening advantage in the bidding,” the writer said. “Of course, Extend Health won.”

Extend Health, the largest private Medicare exchange in the U.S., offers access to multiple Medicare plans for 2013. Retirees who enroll in a Medicare plan through the Extend Health exchange are enrolled in a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) and received HRA credits of $200 to $300 per month from the state up to a maximum of $2,400 per year for single coverage and $3,600 for family coverage.

The credits may be used to pay premiums for Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Part B. Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, Medigap plans and dental and vision plans.

LouisianaVoice has made public records requests for copies of all correspondence between OGB, DOA and BenefitFocus.

Let’s see how long it takes DOA to invoke the ol’ “deliberative process” exemption.

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