Advertisement
  1. Business

CareSync employees ask public officials for help, detail firm's last months

The former CareSync building in Wauchula, Fla. has been vacant since the company closed in June, but Hardee County officials say other companies are looking to move in. [HANNAH DENHAM | Times]
Published Jul. 20, 2018

TAMPA — It's been nearly a month since health care IT company CareSync shut down unexpectedly. And while the Tampa firm may be closed, for many, the issue isn't over.

EARLIER COVERAGE: Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

Former employees have gone before public officials to demand answers and support over the fallout, which left 292 people out of work. Wauchula officials are trying to bring other employers into the space. And former CareSync officials hinted at possible future litigation.

Interviews with more than a dozen former employees left in the lurch by CareSync's sudden demise said there were warning signs of a financial squeeze with top executives leaving and workers directed to maximize Medicare reimbursements.

Soly Alvarado, who worked in the Tampa office as a licensed professional nurse, said that the first hint the company wasn't on solid footing was when Travis Bond was removed from his CEO position in April and made chief innovation officer. Board member Bob Crutchfield was made interim CEO. He did not respond to requests for comment.

"They said it was just because (Bond) wasn't handling finances well," Alvarado said. "Obviously, everyone was concerned."

In its last few months, five former employees told the Tampa Bay Times, the company made an extra push for Medicare billing.

For CareSync to be able to bill Medicare for a patient, a CareSync employee needed to spend at least 20 minutes on their case each month. Billing Medicare helps the company and the physicians CareSync contracted with get paid.

Former CEO Bond said that was just the business model — CareSync helped health care providers with chronic care management services.

"This allowed them to extend the breadth of care they provide patients, and to submit for reimbursement for doing so," Bond said in an email to the Times. "In order for our clients to do the latter, we had to provide at least 20 minutes of care coordination services on behalf of the provider. Our goal was always to coordinate care for all eligible members."

Getting patients "billable" fell under the job description for CareSync's "Trifecta" team members: health assistants who requested patient records, transcribed them and sent the patients care plans.

Former Trifecta members said they were instructed by CareSync management to try to get every patient to 20 minutes, even if there wasn't enough work to fill that time.

"There were times that we were told to 'sit' on the member until it reached 20 minutes," Margarita Gutierrez, a former Trifecta employee who worked in the Wauchula office, said. She worked for CareSync for about two years.

Employees, she said, would stretch to hit their minimum time by making calls to the patient, reviewing medical records and checking on prescriptions for the patient.

The rule even applied for patients who wanted to cancel their accounts — 20 minutes before they were unenrolled.

Shelly Wright, who worked in the Wauchula office, said she was one of the first employees to be hired on the Trifecta team, in May 2017.

"It was overtime, overtime, overtime, overtime until we could get every member up to 20 minutes to be billable," Wright said.

Denise Tehoke started out as a licensed professional nurse for CareSync in Wauchula and was later trained as a Trifecta member in February 2018 during the company's push for Medicare billing.

"The point was to not waste time on it," Tehoke said. "Do what you got to do, get them billable and move on to the next person."

During this rush, another employee Hyla Earley said that Trifecta team members were offered double-pay with no penalties for working overtime.

"There were people who spent the night there just for a couple of hours because they were trying to help," Earley said.

If the employees didn't reach the 20 minute mark, higher-ups would reprimand them and at least once threatened an employee's job security.

A group of about 20 former CareSync employees filled the back rows of the Board of County Commissioners meeting in Wauchula on July 5 to ask the board for help. About 125 CareSync employees were based in Wauchula.

Most employees were blindsided by news CareSync's financial trouble. A termination letter sent out in mid-June said the company had sought a buyer — Shipt CEO Bill Smith and his family — in the hopes of keeping its doors open. The deal eventually fell through.

EARLIER COVERAGE: This health care startup closed. Millions in taxpayer money is gone. Now what?

Since June, many companies have come in to take over what they can from CareSync. Several medical companies made a point of reaching out to hire former CareSync employees both in Tampa and Wauchula, and Career Source Heartland recently hosted a job fair that included former CareSync employees.

According to Bill Lambert, Hardee County economic development director, "several" companies are also looking to move in to the former CareSync Wauchula office.

And there may be more ahead for CareSync. In an email to the Times, Rep. James "Jamie" Grant, who was CareSync's cofounder and senior solutions architect, said that he hasn't ruled out future lawsuits over the ordeal.

"The only plans I have right now are to continue doing everything in my power to make sure that every one of my former colleagues who wants to get back to work are doing so," he said. "Once that work is done — and as we learn more about how this happened to us and exactly what occurred — nothing is off the table."

Bond said he has no current plans to bring litigation.

MORE: Go here for more Business News

Contact these reporters at mcarollo@tampabay.com and hdenham@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Michael Higgins, DO Vince Vanni
    News and notes on local businesses
  2. Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point Star Award Volunteers, from left: Rev. Fred Houck, Barbara Weber and Steve Johnson. Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point
    News and notes on Pasco County businesses
  3. A huge number of homes owned by Baby Boomers will sell in the next 20 years. How will the trend affect the Florida housing market? CAMERON GILLIE  |  NAPLES DAILY NEWS
    The enormous generation born between 1946 and 1964 owns about 40 percent of the homes across the country.
  4. Service dog Eleanor Rigby unexpectedly gave birth to eight puppies at Tampa International Airport as her human family was waiting near gate F81 to board a flight to Philadelphia in May 2018. The airport is getting ready to add pet-relief areas at its airsides for service dogs. (EMILY NIPPS | Tampa International Airport) Tampa International Airport
    Work on the new amenities is expected to be completed by next July.
  5. Developers of a proposed apartment complex near St. Petersburg's Mirror Lake area want to tear down this bungalow and replace it with a ramp to the parking garage. Susan Taylor Martin
    The only access would be via a narrow court lined with vintage houses.
  6. Cooling canals, with Turkey Point nuclear power plant in the background. Miami Herald
    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday announced that it had signed off on Florida Power and Light’s latest application for a 20-year extension.
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Wages rose a solid 3.1% in November compared with a year earlier.
  8. Noah Shaffer of Confidant Asset Management says the restaurant sector in the Tampa Bay area has done well in 2019 and to expect more openings in the coming months. Chick-fil-A Brandon South opened earlier this year.
    So far, the economy appears robust enough to support further expansion, says a local industry professional.
  9. A new retail center and health club are proposed for the Epperson neighborhood in Wesley Chapel, home of the Crystal Lagoon. Preliminary plans show the fitness club near the most eastern edge of the lagoon. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Ryan Companies proposes grocery, retail stores and health club at neighborhood’s entrance
  10. Jamie Harden of Creative Sign Designs and Maryann Ferenc of Mise en Place discuss priorities for the Tampa Bay Chamber for the coming year. Harden is the outgoing chairman of the chamber. Ferenc is the incoming chairwoman. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
    Leadership of the organization, formerly the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, also says it could have handled its recent name change better.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement