Tampa's WellCare Health Plans to cut 360 jobs

WellCare Health Plans Inc. will cut 360 jobs, about 9 percent of its work force, as the Tampa managed-care company tries to reduce certain lines of business.

WellCare previously announced plans to withdraw next year from offering Medicare Advantage private, fee-for-service plans for seniors. Job cuts also will result from combining four regional operations into three and other streamlining efforts, WellCare said Wednesday.

Not all the job losses will be in the Tampa Bay area, said spokeswoman Amy Knapp, who couldn't provide a breakdown by state Wednesday night.

"Our objective remains building a stronger company that can efficiently and effectively provide important health care options to the millions of beneficiaries we serve and the government clients that have entrusted us to do so," chief executive Heath Schiesser said in a statement.

WellCare is trying untangle itself from what the chief federal prosecutor for Central Florida called "one of the largest health care fraud cases in the United States."

This month, WellCare agreed to pay $80 million to avoid conviction on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the Florida Medicaid program and the Florida Healthy Kids Corp., prosecutors said.

On Monday, WellCare said it would pay a $10 million civil penalty to settle an informal inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company's public filings reflected more than $40 million as profits that WellCare fraudulently failed to return to the Florida agencies from 2003 though 2007, the SEC said.

WellCare is in continuing talks to resolve investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice's civil division and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Separately, the company remains under a federal prohibition from selling Medicare plans. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sanctioned WellCare in February for sales practices and how the company handled customer complaints.

The enrollment ban will stay in effect until the agency agrees WellCare has fixed the problems. WellCare is aiming to persuade federal officials to lift the prohibition before Medicare enrollment for 2010 begins in the fall.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Tampa's WellCare Health Plans to cut 360 jobs 05/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 22, 2009 12:55pm]

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