Saturday, November 18, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Public should see details of All Children's settlement

RECOMMENDED READING


The public has a right to know the details of a $7 million settlement between All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg and the state and federal government. The agreement is the conclusion of a 2011 lawsuit brought by a whistle-blower who claimed the hospital was paying doctors outrageous salaries and bonuses to bring in more patients and Medicaid money. That practice would flout a federal law designed to keep doctors from benefiting financially from Medicaid referrals. There is no legal reason details of the All Children's settlement cannot be disclosed. The hospital and the government agreed to keep secret exactly what happened with taxpayer money at a beloved regional institution. The public has a vested interest and deserves to see everything.

Founded in 1926, All Children's has grown from a facility designed to treat children with polio and other crippling disorders to a $400 million, 259-bed pediatric hospital built in 2010. The latest construction project is, in part, why Barbara Schubert said she came forward with allegations of wrongdoing. Forced to find new ways to compete with other medical centers and to pay for the new building, All Children's went on a hiring spree and vastly overpaid doctors to come on board, alleged Schubert, who was director of operations for the doctors' practice at the hospital for more than 10 years. In a 2011 lawsuit, Schubert claimed the hospital hired 80 doctors in 10 specialities at inflated salaries. In 2010 alone, she said, the hospital overpaid doctors by $5 million. The newly hired doctors brought with them millions of dollars in Medicaid money under exclusive contracts to refer patients to All Children's, Schubert alleged. According to an annual report cited in the lawsuit, 70 percent or about $370 million of the hospital's patient care revenues in 2010 came from Medicaid.

All Children's denies any wrongdoing. In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times earlier this week, the hospital said it could not comment on the case or the settlement. But its $7 million payout speaks volumes. Under the terms of the deal, the hospital will pay the federal government $4 million. The state of Florida will receive $3 million. For her role as a whistle-blower, Schubert will get $1.9 million from the state and federal government. That kind of money is not routinely paid when all hands are clean, and this was hardly a nuisance lawsuit to be paid as the cost of doing business.

It comes as no surprise that All Children's wants to keep quiet whatever happened with hiring practices, high salaries and any improper recruiting techniques used to secure more Medicaid dollars. But there is no excuse for the state and federal government to withhold information from taxpayers. By sharing what it learned, the government would fulfill its responsibility to taxpayers and put hospitals on notice that they cannot pay their way out of full disclosure.

There already is enough public suspicion about the high cost of medical care, overutilization of hospital services and fraud in the Medicaid program. All Children's and the government should drop the confidentiality agreement and let taxpayers see how their money was spent. The whistle-blower performed a public service, and the public should see the full results of her courageous effort to expose the truth.

Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17