Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

WellCare defrauds Florida, but keeps its business


Say, wasn't there something in the news recently about WellCare, that big outfit in Tampa?

A. Yep, the company made a deal the other day with the feds and the state to fork over $80 million to avoid a conspiracy prosecution.

Q. What is WellCare?

A. The company is in the Medicare and Medicaid business. It contracts with Florida to manage the health care for poor people and kids on Medicaid. It's a big sucker, Fortune 500-sized. It took in $6.5 billion last year.

Q. What did it do wrong?

A. It was supposed to give back certain money to the state that didn't get spent. Instead, from 2002 to 2006, WellCare funneled that dough to a subsidiary.

Q. So it faked expenses and stole the difference from Medicaid and from Florida's HealthyKids program? That makes them rotten crooks, right?

A. Oooh, such harsh language! We don't talk like that. You are only a "crook" if you stick up a convenience store.

Q. Sorry. So, why didn't the feds and the state crush WellCare like a bug? I mean, $80 million is only, let's see … 1.2 percent of last year's revenue.

A. Don't worry, all the Bad Guys are gone now. Only Good Guys are in charge now. We know this is true because they say so. Do you want to hear what the new chairman says?

Q. Sigh. Okay.

A. He says: "Compliance with all of the laws and regulations governing WellCare's business is a top priority."

Q. Makes me feel better.

A. Don't be sarcastic.

Q. Well, not to be even more cynical, but — didn't WellCare, its subsidiaries and executives also spread a lot of money to Florida politicians?

A. Oh, for Pete's sake! They were just supporting good government in a democracy.

Q. How much good government did they support?

A. About $2.4 million's worth, according to the Associated Press.

Q. Are there any political big shots on WellCare's board?

A. If by "big shots," you mean our former Democratic governor and U.S. senator, Bob Graham, who joined in 2007, or the guy who ran Medicaid under Jeb Bush and then got to be a big shot with the feds as well, a guy named Ruben King-Shaw Jr., who joined in 2003 — then, yeah, I guess you could say that.

Q. You left out another former state Medicaid chief, Andrew Agwunobi, on WellCare's board for six months in 2006, who received stock that he sold for $1 million.

A. Oh, all right.

Q. I'll wager that Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the year ending Dec. 31, 2008, would report the total compensation for Graham and King-Shaw. How much?

A. Graham, $175,420; King-Shaw, $124,344.

Q. You mentioned that WellCare was in both the Medicare and Medicaid business. Any Medicare trouble?

A. Just a teeny spot. The feds ordered WellCare to stop enrolling Medicare customers after March 7 because of a variety of problems.

Q. In fact, didn't the feds say: "WellCare's performance was substandard in numerous areas, and WellCare was one of the overall worst performers among all plans"?

A. Yes.

Q. Given all this, why is the state still doing business with WellCare ? Shouldn't the systematic looting of Medicaid money be the kind of thing that disqualifies a company from, you know, getting more?

A. Don't you think the company has suffered enough?

WellCare defrauds Florida, but keeps its business 05/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 16, 2009 9:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.