WellCare defrauds Florida, but keeps its business

Q.

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]

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