Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for June, 2013

Bobby Jindal, we’re told, in Baton Rouge was chained,
And for eight years he there remained;
He never complained, nor did he vent,
While he waited to run for president
So he could torment the soul of a nation
With moral bankruptcy and deprivation.

He asked of ALEC, wouldn’t it be grand
To become the leader of all the land?
ALEC said yes, it would be loads of fun
But there’re things you should know, son;
The media there ain’t lazy and they surely ain’t dumb
And they’ll chew on you like a big chicken drum.

A poll was taken for his groundwork to be a-layin’
Only to see him finish behind Sarah Palin;
Then appeared the devil with a contract he drew
For Jindal to run against Mary Landrieu;
But the deal was nixed and Satan to hell returned
Leaving Bobby with so much to be learned.

You don’t arrive with promises of transparency
And then deal from the bottom for all to see;
You don’t sell out our state, or from where we sit
The cloak of higher ambition will never fit;
You don’t enrich your friends on the backs of the poor
Or you’ll find your poll numbers down in the sewer.

You see, Bobby Jindal, the truth you’ve not discerned
Is that respect as a leader must first be earned.
You and your donors have surely had your fun
But you will never be elected to Washington;
Your honor is shot; all your political capital spent,
So don’t think for a minute you’ll ever be president.

—(With apologies to the anonymous composer of Hell in Texas)

Advertisement

Read Full Post »

The Division of Administration (DOA) on Friday issued a new request for proposals (RFP) for the consolidation of the information technology (IT) departments of 20 departments within the state’s Executive Branch. http://wwwprd1.doa.louisiana.gov/OSP/LaPAC/agency/pdf/5479100.pdf

July 12 is the deadline for submissions and Aug. 16 is the target date to announce the awarding of the contract, tentatively set to begin on Aug. 30, according to the RFP.

This is sure to be yet another contract to be awarded to some company who will in all likelihood underbid the cost and come back later with expensive contract amendments like F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA) with the Office of Risk Management and CNSI with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) to mention two that come quickly to mind.

But even more important, it appears that possibly hundreds—maybe more than 1,000—of state IT employees will be losing their jobs as a result of the new contract which probably will end up costing the state more money than the current in-house IT systems.

The Office of Information Services (OIS) is responsible for the development, implementation and support of the Integrated Statewide Information System (ISIS) application as well as the DOA programmatic and desktop application, including traditional application development of large complex systems run on the DOA mainframe, client service applications run on midrange computers and Web-based applications.

Remember when Carol Steckel tried to fire 69 IT employees and to contract out DHH’s Center for Health Care Innovation and Technology services to the University of New Orleans?

In that case, she got a little ahead of herself by holding a conference call with the IT employees last December to announce that their jobs would be gone in January. The employees returned to their work stations after that call only to find they had been locked out of their computers. These were the employees who, among other things, help other state employees with their computer problems.

After the Civil Service Commission, in a rare moment of lucidity, denied Steckel’s layoff plan because of insufficient information, UNO backed out of its agreement to take over the agency’s IT services.

An IT employee with DHH’s Center for Health Care Innovation and Technology wrote LouisianaVoice that employees had been misinformed on future employment by DHH executives on three separate occasions. “At each meeting, we felt as though we were being threatened with furlough without pay, having to pay 100 percent of COBRA to maintain our insurance, (and) being threatened (with) not receiving our 300 hours of saved annual leave,” the employee wrote.

In March, Jan Cassidy, sister-in-law of Congressman Bill Cassidy, was hired to head DOA’s Procurement and Technology section at a salary of $150,000 per year, prompting one observer to ask, “What is she going to procure? The state is broke and there’s an expenditure freeze.”

Apparently we will be getting the answer to that question when the proposals start coming in from vendors and a contract is awarded.

Jan Cassidy previously 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 DHH that ran from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011 and paid Xerox $834,000 per month.

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

A state contract data base search by LouisianaVoice turned up four contracts with ACS totaling $45.55 million and campaign finance reports revealed three ACS political contributions totaling $10,000 to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In Texas, an ACS contract awarded by the Rick Perry administration quadrupled to $1.4 billion as Texas Medicaid spent more on braces in 2010 ($184 million) than the other 49 states combined but which an audit found that 90 percent of the reimbursements were not covered by Medicaid.

The Wall Street Journal said statewide fraud reached hundreds of millions of dollars as ACS spent more than $6.9 million lobbying Texas politicians from 2002 to 2012.

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 by 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 Washington, D.C. the Department of Motor Vehicles reimbursed $17.8 million to persons wrongly given parking tickets. The contract that operated the District’s ticket processing was ACS.

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

In Alabama, Steckel, then 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, of course, had a decided edge in getting that contract: it hired Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s former chief of staff Toby Roth. And Steckel, of course came to Louisiana to work for DHH though she still maintained her residence—and, apparently, her vehicle registration—in Alabama. 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/

Steckel first said the proposed contract with UNO would save DHH $2.1 million over three years but later revised that figure upward to $7 million, prompting members of the Civil Service Commission to express “zero confidence” in her figures and to reject her layoff plan.

Jan Cassidy also worked for 19 years, from 1986 to 2005, for 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 State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson cancelled in April of 2009, saying he was dissatisfied with the work and that his staff could complete the project.

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

Altogether, the 23 agencies account for 1,158 IT employees who stand to lose their jobs with the awarding of a contract for the consolidation.

The agencies and the number of filled positions to be affected are as follows:

• Executive: 275;

• Public Safety: 142;

• Children and Family Services: 120;

• Transportation and Development: 111;

• Health and Hospitals: 62;

• Revenue and Taxation: 88;

• Retirement Systems: 58;

• Workforce Commission (formerly Labor): 45;

• Civil Service: 8;

• Agriculture: 13;

• Corrections: 39;

• Economic Development: 3;

• Education: 44;

• Environmental Quality: 29;

• Insurance: 8;

• Natural Resources: 30;

• State: 25;

• Treasury: 3;

• Wildlife and Fisheries: 24;

• Culture, Recreation and Tourism: 14;

• Juvenile Justice 5;

• Public Service Commission; 7;

Given problems and cost overruns in other states, there have to be concerns over similar problems or questions whether there even is a company out there willing to submit a proposal that has not gotten contracts under questionable circumstances or which found it necessary to come back later for costly contract amendments.

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, the operative term was FUBAR. In administration Jindal, the concern should be whether or not we might be headed for another CNSI or ACS/Xerox scenario.

Read Full Post »

“We need to stop being simplistic. We need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

“We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.”

“No more self-analysis; we’ve had our catharsis. The season for navel gazing has passed. At some point, the American public is going to revolt against the nanny state and the leftward march of this president. I don’t know when the tipping point will come, but I believe it will come soon. In the meantime Republicans, hold fast, get smarter, get disciplined, get on offense and put on your big boy pants.”

Contradictory? You bet. Fuel for political debate? Well, it should be except that all three statements were uttered by none other than Bobby Jindal, guvnor of the gret stet of Looziana.

There was a time when observers believed he couldn’t possibly do or say anything that would overshadow the disaster of his 2009 Republican response to President Obama’s State of Union address.

Remember that train wreck? His performance evoked comments like “laughable,” “amateurish,” “Awkward with a capital A,” “I am absolutely stunned” (MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow), “Oh, God,” (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews), “It was a flop,” and best of all (or worst of all, depending upon your political leanings), “After watching Jindal, I’d pay a lot of money to be back watching a (Sarah) Palin speech.”

Ouch. Yes, it would seem difficult to say or do anything more underwhelming than that.

Well, those observers were all wrong. Of course it got worse, much worse. It’s the Jindal karma.

Bobby Jindal is the Paula Deen of Republican pundits; the Yogi Berra of political philosophy. His utterances make Les Miles sound downright scholarly.

When Rick Perry forgot the Department of Education as one of three agencies he would abolish as president, it was uncomfortably amusing.

But recent comments by Jindal (who remember, endorsed Perry’s disastrous campaign for the Republican presidential nomination) are just embarrassing—to everyone but Jindal and his handlers (read: Timmy Teepell), apparently.

Last November, right after Obama defeated Mitt Romney, it was Jindal who jumped in front of a one-man parade to say, “We need to stop being simplistic. We need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

Less than three months later, in January of this year, Jindal gave the keynote address at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting. He said the Republicans don’t need to change values but “might need to change just about everything else we are doing.”

It was in that address that he dropped the now-infamous “stupid party” bombshell.

“We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults,” he said. “We had a number of Republicans damage the brand (so now the party is a “brand,” like so much laundry detergent or toothpaste) this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.”

Well, not quite yet. With Jindal, there never seems to be “enough of that.”

On June 18, he did it again, this time in an op-ed piece in Politico. While apparently wearing his John Wayne hat and his six-guns, he admonished his Republican brethren to “put on their big boy pants.”

Jindal, executing a perfect 180, said, “How about we take all of this energy being spent on autopsies and focus it on painting a picture for the American public, particularly for young people, of what a free and prosperous American future will look like with smart conservative policies?”

He said that Democrats, among other things, believe the earth is flat, that the IRS should violate our constitutional rights and that reporters should be spied on. And while he accused the left of other transgressions as well, those three should warrant particular attention because it was Republican Richard Nixon who used the IRS against his enemies and who spied on reporters and it is the church-affiliated charter schools, using the Bob Jones University text books who teach that the earth is only 7,000 to 10,000 years old, that Moses was 500 years old when his first son was born, and contrary to conventional teachings that it took thousands of years for man to develop written language, man was able to write from the beginning because Adam wrote a poem to God—before eating from the tree of knowledge.

“Eventually Americans will rise up against this new era of big government and this new reign of politically correct terror,” Jindal said. “In the meantime, Republicans—hold fast, get smarter, get disciplined, get on offense and put on your big boy pants.”

Avik Roy, writing Wednesday, June 26, for the National Review, offered a defense—of sorts—describing Jindal as “the brainiest Republican of our time” while acknowledging that he “has a few things to answer for.”

If Jindal is indeed “the brainiest Republican of our time,” as Roy suggests, then the party is in far deeper trouble than anyone could imagine.

That op-ed piece and the big-boy pants line, which Jindal may well come to regret as much as the account of his exorcism while a student at Brown University, prompted Public Service Commission member Foster Campbell to say on public radio’s Jim Engster Show on Monday that Jindal “needs to quit thinking about personal politics and do his job. There are so many problems in Louisiana that he should be worried about instead of running all over the country giving speeches. He hugged up to Romney during the campaign in an attempt to get chosen as his vice presidential running mate and two weeks after the election, turned on him.

“He’s so ambitious to be vice president or president,” Campbell said. “He should get back here in Louisiana and do the job the people elected him to do. We have people in Louisiana who are hurting and he’s running around the country talking about bed wetting and big boy pants.

“He’s like a little dog barking and trying to catch up with a car.”

Campbell said the vision of Bobby Jindal telling someone, anyone, to stop bed wetting and to put their big boy pants on is something he could not comprehend.

“If he has his big boy pants on, he shouldn’t need a large state police security detail with him when he travels,” he said. “One or two (bodyguards) should suffice.”

And if Jindal is a big boy, Campbell said, “He wouldn’t need lifts in his shoes.”

Read Full Post »

A week after the Dallas office of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) confirmed to LouisianaVoice that the state still had not answered questions about the proposed privatization of state hospitals, the Washington, D.C. office has weighed in with similar concerns in a letter to two state senators.

On Monday it was announced that Health facilities in Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles and New Orleans had been turned over to private operators as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s drive to privatize the university-run hospitals and clinics.

A three-page letter from Cindy Mann, Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS), to State Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) addressed seven questions posed by Nevers and State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) and the answers were no more encouraging to the Jindal administration than those of the Dallas office on June 12.

“In your letter, you raise questions concerning plans by the state to enter into public-private partnerships with Louisiana State University (LSU) and University Medical Center in Lafayette and LSU and Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, and questions related to the Affordable Care Act,” Mann wrote in her June 19 letter to Nevers.

The entire privatization deal would appear to revolve around the first question posed by Nevers: “Will CMS approve the large up-front lease payment arrangements as proposed in the attached public-private partnership lease agreements in Louisiana?”

“The Centers for (CMS) has concerns over the large up-front lease payments described in the Louisiana public-private partnership agreements,” Mann wrote.

A spokesperson for Mann’s office said nothing had changed since the June 19 letter.

“However, at this time, the state has not submitted state plan amendments (SPA) proposing to fund Medicaid payments through the agreements and CMS cannot offer formal determination as to whether the arrangements would conflict with the requirements described in (the Social Security Act,” Mann said. “Once the state submits the SPAs, CMS will request necessary supporting documentation and explanations from the state to demonstrate compliance with these provisions of the statute and regulations.”

Nearly 4,000 state employees were laid off because of the privatization of the facilities that care for the uninsured and which provide training for the state’s medical students.

Nevers, contacted in California where he was attending a conference, said he had never seen a situation where policies needing federal approval were undertaken and finalized before that approval was forthcoming. “It’s premature, to say the least, to do this without written approval in hand,” he said. “The private partners won’t stay in this deal if there are no payments and if CMS doesn’t approve the state’s plan, the whole thing falls apart.”

Nevers said his primary concern was continued health care delivery for the state’s poor. “In any business venture, you would not jeopardize services based on ‘maybes.’”

He said Jindal may well have more information than he has, “but the people who make the decisions do not have the information. Moving forward is something we should not be doing at this time.

“Neither should the LSU Board of Supervisors have agreed to a major contract for the transfer of the hospitals that contained 50 blank pages,” he said.

Mann, in her letter said that while the lease agreements themselves would not be subject to CMS approval, “to the extent that the lease agreements contain financing arrangements that are involved in the state’s funding of its Medicaid program, CMS will review the lease arrangements to insure compliance with federal Medicaid laws and regulations.”

She said any SPA request by the state to modify its Medicaid service payments will be reviewed by CMS to insure compliance with federal Medicaid laws and regulations. “This includes the source of non-federal funds used to fund the service payments,” she said.

Nevers, in his letter to Mann, asked if Louisiana were to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) “are there any federal provisions that would prohibit Louisiana from withdrawing from such an expanded Medicaid program at any time, including after participating in the 100 percent federal funding available in 2014, 2015 and 2016?”

Mann responded in the affirmative: “A state may choose whether and when to expand, and if a state covers the expansion group, it may later decide to drop the coverage, without any federal penalty.”

The Louisiana Civil Service Commission approved the contracts for the takeover of four hospitals in Houma, Lafayette, New Orleans and Lake Charles on June 10 despite the lack of CMS approval of the state’s privatization plan.

Commission member Scott Hughes of Shreveport said the approval was based on the state budget approved by the legislature which he said assumed the privatization of the hospital. That action, he said, would leave no money available to operate the hospitals through LSU if the deals had been rejected.

While that is not among the criteria that the Civil Service Commission is supposed to consider when layoff plans are submitted by state agencies, it left unanswered the question of what will happen if CMS does not ultimately approve the state’s plan.

A CMS spokesperson in Dallas said on June 12 that CMS does not play any role in the actual privatization of the hospitals. “However, as part of the privatization, the State of Louisiana is modifying the Medicaid reimbursement to those hospitals. The change in reimbursement requires the submission of State Plan Amendments (SPA). CMS currently has received some of the necessary SPA and they are under review.”

Last Jan. 30, Bill Brooks, associate regional administrator for the CMS Division of Medicaid and Children’s Health Operations in Dallas, sent a six-page letter to Ruth Kennedy, director of the Bureau of Health Services Financing for the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) in which he requested additional clarifying information which he cautioned had the effect of “stopping the 90-day clock” for CMS to take action on the proposed SPA which “proposed to revise the reimbursement methodology for inpatient hospital services to establish supplemental Medicaid payments to non-state-owned hospitals in order to encourage them to take over the operation and management of state-owned and operated hospitals that have terminated or reduced services.”

He said a new 90-day clock would not begin until his office had received satisfactory responses to his requests.

One of the requirements that Brooks cited was one which said CMS “must have copies of all signed standard Cooperative Endeavor Agreements.” He also asked the state to provide all Intergovernmental Transfer (IGT) management agreements and “any other agreements that would present the possibility of a transfer of value between the two entities.”

He said, “CMS has concerns that such financial arrangements meet the definition of non-bona fide provider donations as described in federal statute and regulations.

“Detailed information needs to be provided to determine whether the dollar value of the contracts between private and public entities had any fair market valuation. There can be no transfer of value or a return or reduction of payments reflected in these agreements,” he said.

“Additionally, whether the State is a party to the financial arrangement or not, the State is ultimately responsible to ensure that the funding is appropriate.”

Brooks asked, “How many entities does the State anticipate will participate in this arrangement? Please submit a list of all participating hospitals, all transferring entities doing the IGT, and the dollar amount that the transferring entities will IGT. Please describe how the hospitals are related/affiliated to the transferring entity and provide the names of all owners of the participating hospitals.”

In the case of the Leonard Chabert Medical Center in Houma, the lessee is listed as Terrebonne Medical Center of Houma but in reality, Ochsner Medical Center of New Orleans will be taking over operations of Leonard Chabert.

“What is the source of all funds that will be transferred?” Brooks asked. “Are they from tax assessments, special appropriations from the State to the county (parish)/city or some other source?

“The State plan methodology must be comprehensive enough to determine the required level of payment and the Federal Financial Participation (FFP) to allow interested parties to understand the rate setting process and the items and services that are paid through these rates,” Brooks said. “Claims for federal matching funds cannot be based upon estimates or projections. Please add language that describes the actual historical utilization and trend factors utilized in the calculation,” he said.

Brooks also asked if the private hospitals destined to take over operations of the state facilities are required to provide a specific amount of health care service to low income and needy patients. “Is this health care limited to hospital only or will health care be provided to the general public? What type of health care covered services will be provided?” he asked.

The CMS spokesperson on Wednesday said if CMS disapproved an amendment, “there would be no federal dollars provided for the changes proposed in the State Plan Amendment.”

“No federal dollars” could translate to hundreds of millions of dollars for a state already wrestling with suffocating budgetary constraints.

Read Full Post »

“…the Department is not in possession of any public record(s) responsive to the above-written request.”

—May 9 Reply from the Department of Education’s legal department in response to LouisianaVoice public records request of April 22 in which we asked for “the official letter or email that you (Superintendent of Education John White) sent to inBloom to cancel the data storage agreement” as quoted in the Monroe News-Star report.

“White said he’ll send the certified letter to inBloom, but he said he’s sent several letters already notifying the organization that Louisiana’s data-sharing had ended.”

—Excerpt from Melinda Deslatte’s Associated Press story of June 20 in which White told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) that he had terminated the Jan. 13 contract with inBloom.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: