Monday, November 20, 2017
Health

Attorney General Pam Bondi removes two top Medicaid fraud investigators

RECOMMENDED READING


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

Owning dogs may be great for your heart and lower risk of death, study finds

Dog ownership correlates with lower rates of mortality and some fatal diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, a study published this past week concluded.The study in the journal Scientific Reports found that canine ownership was associated wit...
Published: 11/19/17
New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

Medical researchers and government health policymakers, a cautious lot, normally take pains to keep expectations modest when they’re discussing some new finding or treatment.They warn about studies’ limitations. They point out what isn’t known. They ...
Published: 11/17/17
BayCare’s HealthHub breaks ground behind Valrico shopping center

BayCare’s HealthHub breaks ground behind Valrico shopping center

VALRICO — Health care officials broke ground Thursday on the long anticipated HealthHub at Bloomingdale, which will bring about 150 jobs to an area that’s experiencing tremendous growth and provide patients with the latest in technological care.A pro...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/19/17
In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

Despite the budget cuts, the attempts to repeal and replace, and reports of sharp rises in premiums, Floridians and other Americans are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at record rates this year.Enrollment has surged 47 p...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Where did I leave my keys?As we age, it can take longer to answer a question like that.Humans begin to lose cognitive ability at age 25. Dementia, or the decline of memory most commonly seen in aging adults, takes hold early on and is gradual, but ac...
Published: 11/16/17
Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

The nation’s heart experts tightened the guidelines for high blood pressure Monday, a change that will sharply increase the number of U.S. adults considered hypertensive in the hope that they, and their doctors, will address the deadly condition earl...
Published: 11/13/17
Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios recently. It had been awhile. Regular Cheerios are more my thing. But sometimes I finish my box faster than my kids do and find myself straying to their side of the cupboard.Honey Nut is America’s best-selling break...
Published: 11/11/17
Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

The corporate owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg could be facing a serious federal investigation related to its commitment to take care of St. Petersburg’s poorest residents.In its most recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commiss...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/14/17
Father in New Tampa uses monkey Kookabuk to help young autism patients

Father in New Tampa uses monkey Kookabuk to help young autism patients

As a 7-year-old boy, Kevin Howard spent months in the hospital with a bone infection in his leg.A stuffed monkey named Kookabuk helped him make it through the scary experience."I was told he had magical powers," Howard said of the monkey, a gift from...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/19/17
Learn to practice gratitude year-round, not just on Thanksgiving

Learn to practice gratitude year-round, not just on Thanksgiving

Is it part of your Thanksgiving tradition to go around the dinner table and have everyone share one thing they are thankful for? The exercise reminds us that the day is about more than just turkey and pie. And, for those who take it seriously, it for...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/10/17