Thursday, June 21, 2018
Health

Attorney General Pam Bondi removes two top Medicaid fraud investigators

TALLAHASSEE — Attorney General Pam Bondi demoted the head of her Medicaid fraud investigative unit and fired another top staffer this week, citing reports of poor leadership and employee discontent.

Patrick Kelly, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit's chief of law enforcement investigations, was fired Wednesday. Unit director David Lewis was also removed from his position, though he will continue to work in the Attorney General's Office.

The personnel changes are the result of a "strategic review" that pinpointed Kelly and Lewis as the source of many of the unit's issues, though neither was accused of any wrongdoing.

"I believed that the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit could perform much better, and I requested a thorough review of the unit," Bondi said in an email Thursday. "The results of the review confirmed that changes needed to be made in order to ensure that the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit serves Floridians as well as possible."

The review, dated Feb. 13, concluded that "a culture of passive aggressive management exists at the top" of the unit. It singled out Lewis and Kelly, saying their management styles lead staff to fear retribution for speaking up.

The report also said there were too many positions left vacant, inadequate training, poor coordination with the Agency for Health Care Administration and ongoing discontent in the unit's Miami office, its busiest.

Reviewers also accused Kelly of tampering with the investigation by calling staff members prior to their interviews with the review team. The report suggested that both Kelly and Lewis be replaced.

Lewis, 56, could not be reached for comment. Kelly, 55, said he was brought in by former Attorney General Bill McCollum as a "change agent," which made him unpopular at times.

"Anytime you change an organization there are some people who are uncomfortable," he said.

Oscar Gelpi, who was previously assigned to the Fort Lauderdale branch of the Office of Statewide Prosecution, will serve as interim director of the Medicaid fraud unit, which has eight offices. The division investigates and prosecutes cases regarding the misuse of Medicaid funds, corruption, or abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities.

Although the Medicaid fraud unit has been credited with recovering hundreds of millions of dollars, management concerns have also plagued the division over the years.

Kelly and Lewis were among four employees suspended without pay in 2009, after they were accused of drinking "sips of whiskey" at a state-run police academy during working hours. Kelly was also accused of using his state-issued vehicle improperly.

That was before Lewis was promoted to the top position, where he made $105,000 annually. Kelly's salary was $95,000.

The unit's productivity became a campaign issue during the 2010 gubernatorial race, as Democrat Alex Sink pointed out that the number of prosecutions had dropped under McCollum.

Bob Butterworth, who served as attorney general from 1987 to 2002, was accused of ignoring or botching major Medicaid fraud cases because he allowed the unit to focus on individual patients who bilked the system instead of corporations. Butterworth took over Medicaid fraud investigations from the state Auditor General's office in 1994.

At one point, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put the fraud office on probation, saying the state had done too little to root out major cases.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Pergolas’ Saturday morning volunteer work started like most, at a farm cleaning the property and trimming trees. Andrea Pergola, 38, stood on the driveway of the property when she heard her 15-year-old son Logan scream. At first, sh...
Published: 06/20/18
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA — Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease class...
Published: 06/19/18
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, don’t forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. That’s because both products work to protect your body from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG — Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18
Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

YES, MELANOMAS CAN BEGIN IN THE EYEIs it true that melanoma can develop in the eyes? If so, how common is it? How is it treated?Melanomas can begin in the eye, a condition called intraocular melanoma. Treatment for intraocular melanomas used to prima...
Published: 06/08/18
For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

High-intensity interval training is one of the biggest trends in fitness, but it has always seemed a bit scary to me. To a mere mortal with achy knees and an aging body, even the acronym — HIIT — sounded intimidating.But recently, I overcame my fears...
Published: 06/08/18
Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: ‘dragged’

Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: ‘dragged’

By KATIE WORKMANOne of the amazing things about Italian food is that the best dishes are often so completely, refreshingly simple. Like, four-ingredient simple. (We don’t count olive oil and salt. Or water. Or air.) I love broccoli. I can roast brocc...
Published: 06/08/18