Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hello Met: Domingo & Operas

On the first day of spring, we went to a much anticipated performance of Ernani by Placido Domingo when snow again descended upon this adorable city.

It was in 1981 when the Cockroach Catcher and his wife ventured to the Royal Opera House in London for the performance of Les Contes d'Hoffmann by Domingo with amongst the cast Ileana Cortrubas and Robert Tear. Tear would later in his book describe that as one of the best opera performances ever.

We were a few days back at the latest Met Les Contes d'Hoffmann that was so different from the 1981 Domingo one but still extremely enjoyable. Such is the beauty of opera.

Mention must be made of Manon at the Met. It could turn out to be one of the best operas of this season by a wide margin. One of the best Manon in recent times.

© Am Ang Zhang 2015

This run of "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" could not have ended on a higher note. In all ways, this was a truly masterful portrayal of a work often unfairly overlooked because of its unfinished state.


And Domingo saved his best for the final concertato in which he pardons all, each legato line elegantly sung for all to hear. Even if there was a rugged nature to his sound, there is no denying that Domingo continues to astound even at 74.


As the titular character, soprano Diana Damrau was clearly enjoying herself in every way imaginable. Her Manon was a teenage girl through and through, slowly showing signs of maturity as the drama ramped up but always seeming to regress to her more youthful impulses. Her opening aria "Je suis encore tout etourdie" set up the dazed and unstable nature of the young girl. Damrau's voice was at its most agile, rising to her vocal stratosphere with full volume before unexpectedly quieting down in a hurry. The effect was dizzying, emphasizing the character's effect on those around her. There was a sweetness in her duet with Des Grieux that hinted at some timidity, but by the end of the duet her voice soared matching the potent intensity of her co-star Vittorio Grigolo.


Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe
                                                     Written by George Friedman

With remarkable accuracy, George Friedman has forecasted coming trends in global politics, technology, population, and culture. In Flashpoints, Friedman focuses on Europe—the world’s cultural and power nexus for the past five hundred years . . . until now. Analyzing the most unstable, unexpected, and fascinating borderlands of Europe and Russia—and the fault lines that have existed for centuries and have been ground zero for multiple catastrophic wars—Friedman highlights, in an unprecedentedly personal way, the flashpoints that are smoldering once again.

Other Opera Posts:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Finland & Music: Easter Passion & Dementia!

Finland is one of the few non Asian countries where their educational results matched those of Singapore and Hong Kong without spoon feeding.

They value their Health Care system and they protect their National Parks.

Looks like their emphasis on music education may be good for the grandparents too.

March 13, 2015
Helsingin yliopisto (University of Helsinki)

Although listening to music is common in all societies, the biological determinants of listening to music are largely unknown. According to a new study, listening to classical music enhanced the activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic neurotransmission, learning and memory, and down-regulated the genes mediating neurodegeneration. Several of the up-regulated genes were known to be responsible for song learning and singing in songbirds, suggesting a common evolutionary background of sound perception across species.

Listening to music enhanced the activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic function, learning and memory. One of the most up-regulated genes, synuclein-alpha (SNCA) is a known risk gene for Parkinson's disease that is located in the strongest linkage region of musical aptitude. SNCA is also known to contribute to song learning in songbirds.
"The up-regulation of several genes that are known to be responsible for song learning and singing in songbirds suggest a shared evolutionary background of sound perception between vocalizing birds and humans," says Dr. Irma Järvelä, the leader of the study.

In contrast, listening to music down-regulated genes that are associated with neurodegeneration, referring to a neuroprotective role of music.
"The effect was only detectable in musically experienced participants, suggesting the importance of familiarity and experience in mediating music-induced effects," researchers remark.

The findings give new information about the molecular genetic background of music perception and evolution, and may give further insights about the molecular mechanisms underlying music therapy.

© 2012 Am Ang Zhang

A reprint:

Easter Passion: Classical Music & The Next Generation

 Easter will soon be here and it is time for Bach's best music.

Passiflora alata ©2008 Am Ang Zhang

In the early 1600s, a Jesuit priest came across a Passion flower in 
South America and was taken by its complexity and beauty. That night he had a vision, so the story went, that the flower's trio of stigma resembled the three nails used in the crucifixion; the stamens represented the wounds; the spiky purple crown above the petals, the crown of thorns; and the tendrils of the plant were the scourges. The name was a direct reference to the Passion of Christ. I find it peculiar that the plant has been found in the wild in every continent except Europe and Antarctica. 
In England the Victorians loved it and then fell out of love with it. Now it is making a comeback possibly due to the fruits’ popularity in modern gourmet cooking. 
There are many varieties and some are edible. Of the edible kind there are two big groups, the one with the dark skin one and the one with the yellow skin.
The plant itself, from the stem to the leaves and the flowers, have been used by South American natives for various medicinal purposes, none currently approved by the F.D.A.

The fruit has some of the most concentrated fragrance of any fruit species. The charm is in its acidity which enhances the intense flavour and natural sweetness. With fine vanilla ice-cream it is a delight. It can be used as a topping for many desserts and famously for Pavlova. It is made into soft drinks and is often used in tropical cocktails. The golden variety is best eaten fresh and the dark skin ones can be left to mature as the flavour intensifies further.
With the golden to near blood red seeds, the fruit qualifies as a colourful non-green fruit, with all the necessary anti-oxidants. To me it is just flavoursome. 

©2008 Am Ang Zhang

As it is Easter I am listening to St. Matthew's Passion. Would this indeed be the piece of music to take to your desert island? 

“On the Easter music note, it is perhaps appropriate to mention Mahler’s Second Symphony: The Resurrection. The text of the music made no biblical reference and it was Mahler’s very personal view of life and his life was full of tragedies and suffering, with the premature deaths of his siblings and daughter, and his own heart disease. There has not been a greater composer to emerge since his death.”

The biologist Lewis Thomas when asked what message he would send to aliens famously said: “……Bach, all of Bach……”. 

Richard Dawkins picked it as one of his eight desert island discs. Now you know.

The Guardian:Why we are shutting children out of classical music.
April 2, 2009 Tom ServiceTom Service is a 33-year-old classical music critic. For 25 years of concert-going he found himself to be amongst the youngest in the audience.

But there is something else that is strange:
“I've noticed that bus and train stations now pipe canned classical music, day-in, day-out, through their speakers as a way of stopping young people hanging around. So toxic have the associations become, that this experiment actually works: there is evidence that playing Beethoven and Mahler has reduced antisocial behaviour on the transport network.”

He went on:

“An entire generation, aged between 10 and 30, seems radically disenfranchised from classical music. How, and when, did this happen?”
Then in Finland:

“A couple of years ago, I saw a class of seven-year-olds in Helsinki enthusiastically learning Finnish and maths by performing sophisticated little songs with astonishing tuning and rhythm. And this wasn't a music school - just a typical Finnish state primary. Finland only developed its curriculum in the postwar period, but it works: today, the Finns are classical music world-beaters, and their education system has produced more great instrumentalists, conductors and composers per capita than any other country on earth.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen is of course the Principal Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Finland’s most famous music export in recent times.
I was at a concert recently and a large numbers of players in the orchestra were Koreans. Well apart from steel and TV and cars, the Koreans are now into golf and music in a big way. The LPGA is certainly dominated by Koreans. Could it be that music gave them the edge in golf as well, not just the chopsticks?

Tom again:
“Here is a ready-made answer to the problems of renewing classical music's role in society. Make them statutory requirements for every local authority, and give them the responsibility for rebuilding the network of classical musical possibility that used to resound throughout the country.”
And perhaps throw in golf for good measure.

It was in 1990 that American troops played deafening pop and heavy metal music day and night outside the Vatican Mission to Panama City that Noriega surrendered.

In future, this strategy might have to be changed, Beethoven, Mahler and God forbid even Bach.

Tom Service’s last words:

“We've already lost one generation - we can't afford to lose another.”


Julie said...
It's a source of great sadness to me as a classical musician that classical music is no longer formally taught in the classroom as it was when I was growing up. It became the victim of a reverse elitism; that classical music was for snobs and also that ordinary folk weren't good enough to learn classical music and have it as part of their culture. It's a phemonenon that is particularly British; in Germany, they have big Bach choirs and in Italy everyone knows their Verdi and Rossini. The irony is that pop music is much more difficult to perform than your average Bach chorale, yet it's held up as the music of the common man. I think things are beginning to turn round, but I felt like chucking bricks through the telly when they were going on about these wonderful childrens' orchestras in Venezuala that were working wonders and keeping them out of trouble. We had a whole system of music schools and orchestras in Glasgow that were shut down one by one and the one that I teach at survived because we wouldn't give up and got various trusts to sponsor us.
Anyway, sorry about the rant. Yep, I would definitely take Bach to a desert island and send it to aliens; particularly the six Bach Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin, but that's my fancy.
Cockroach Catcher said...
Thanks Julie. I grew up in poor post communist HK and fought for my own music education and valued it.

Both my girls are good musicians.

But music does a lot more.
hyperCRYPTICal said...
As a child at primary and junior school level I lived in the leafy suburbs of a (then – don’t know whether it still is) affluent coastal town in Sussex.

Each morning assembly was rounded off with five to ten minutes of classical music and this is where my appreciation of it was born – love of opera was to come much later.

Classical music was not a feature of secondary schooling of either myself or any level of schooling in that of my children (who are now old(ish)) in the cold climes of my part of Britain where I moved pre-teen.

I have never seen opera live as in the city near to where I live now, despite its claim of culture for it does not offer it – or if it does it is so badly advertised I am never aware of it.

One of my memories of my late teens was to see The Red Army Choir live and I fell in love with the beauty of their wonderful voices. I still play an LP – slightly scratched as it is – I bought soon after this concert and it continues to ‘fill me up.’ (I have purchased DVDs but all – although being the songs on my lovely LP – are ‘modernised’ to such an extent that their awfulness has led to only one listening.)

I think my children (who bent to peer pressure and decided classical music was not for them) and indeed any child who does not know of classical music has a void in their life and unfortunately are unaware of it.

Anna :o]
Cockroach Catcher said...
One of my reason to move to London after retirement.

Royal Opera House and New York Met have very reasonable tickets.

Opera is good value entertainment.

Thanks to Julie and Anna

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Patagonia: Nudibranch & Memory!

©2015 Am Ang Zhang

We were having dinner at our Ecocamp in Patagonia with a very interesting couple.
The husband is aiming to climb the Matterhorn and somehow in the conversation we talked about their other adventures that included Diving. Somehow Nudibranch was mentioned and as it turned out we exchange email addresses and became good friends.

Nudibranch reminded me of Aplysia and Kandel:

Nudibranch © 2009 Irene Man
Nudibranch is so named because of its naked gills.
Here is a description in The National Geographic:
“Nudibranchs crawl through life as slick and naked as a newborn. Snail kin whose ancestors shrugged off the shell millions of years ago, they are just skin, muscle, and organs sliding on trails of slime across ocean floors and coral heads the world over.

Nudibranch © 2009 Irene Man

Memory & Knowledge: Talmud & Taxi

In 2001 I was fortunate enough to be in New Orleans for the American Psychiatric Association Annual Conference. One of the lectures attracted a long queue and it turned out that the Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel was giving his lecture. I was fortunate enough to be able to secure a seat.

"Different forms of learning result in memories by changing that strength in different ways. Short-term memory results from transient changes that last minutes and does not require any new synthesis of proteins, Kandel said. However, long-term memories are based in more lasting changes of days to weeks that do require new brain protein to be synthesized. And this synthesis requires the input of the neuron’s genes." Eric Kandel.

In his book In Search Of Memory, he remembered his arrival in New York in 1939 after a year under the Nazi in Vienna:

“My grandfather and I liked each other a great deal, and he readily convinced me that he should tutor me in Hebrew during the summer of 1939 so that I might be eligible for a scholarship at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, an excellent Hebrew parochial school that offered both secular and religious studies at a very high level. With his tutelage I entered the Yeshiva in the fall of 1939. By the time I graduated in 1944 I spoke Hebrew almost as well as English, had read through the five books of Moses, the books of Kings, the Prophets and the Judges in Hebrew, and also learned a smattering of the Talmud.”

Eric Kandel/Amazon

“It gave me both pleasure and pride to learn later that Baruch S. Blumberg, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976, had also benefited from the extraordinary educational experience provided by the Yeshivah of Flatbush.”

In Hebrew and English!!! That did not seem to have done him and Blumberg much harm. Right now some governments seem hell bent in doing away with rote learning and that includes some medical schools.

Lord Brain:
When I was training in London in the 70s, I spent some time at Queen Square. Those in the know will recognize it as the place for neurology this side of the Atlantic. It was drilled into us then that sadly we were given a number of brain cells when we were born and it was all downhill from then on or something to that effect. It was well known that neurologists were great diagnosticians but for most neurological conditions, not much could be done. How depressing indeed. Even as recently as four weeks ago, I heard a young doctor told his father that there was nothing he could do with his brain cells. One is given so many at birth and no more can be expected. Lord Brain (1895-1966) would have been so proud.


Yet it was also London that shook the world with new discoveries about the brain, and the study was on the most unlikely group of people: Taxi drivers. Their “KNOWLEDGE” was the basis of our knowledge on brain plasticity today. The “KNOWLEDGE” is a term officially used to describe the test the Taxi Drivers had to take to get the licence to drive Taxis in London. Streets in London have evolved over time and are not on any grid system at all. Early postmortem examinations led some pathologists to note the small size of the Taxi drivers’ frontal lobes. Yet actual weight measurement showed that size was all relative. It was the enlarged hippocampal region that created that impression. Later work using modern scanning techniques confirmed the early impressions.

Music, poetry & anatomy:

Playing musical instruments requires both manual dexterity and memory work, and musicians are often good mathematicians, possibly because of the proximity of the areas in the brain for these functions, although it may not be that clear cut. Making children recite poems is not a bad idea either, nor indeed the study of Latin, or anatomy work for medical students, as these activities all help to exercise their brain.

Now lessons in music instruments are no longer offered in most state schools in the U.K., nor is Latin. Medical schools are moving away from rote learning. Good intentions may indeed have major drawbacks that could affect generations to come.

By the way, if you have been trained to have a good memory, that ability will transfer easily to the remembering of the taste of wine! Think about it, the brain is very economical in its application, and is still the best computer around.

Mmmm….perhaps that is why two of my friends started learning the piano when they retired. And they joined wine clubs too. They too might know a thing or two.

If we want our children to have a future, bring back music, rote learning and poetry, and let medical students toil through anatomy.

For us, learn a new instrument & drink wine!


Friday, March 13, 2015

NHS & Wine: Simon Stevens----Sell then Sail?

As the sun sets in Atacama, Chile; it may well be setting for NHS England engineered by Simon Stevens.

©2015 Am Ang Zhang

Public health concerns mount as 'personal health budgets' imposed on 10,000 chronically ill patients

Patients across the country are to have their health funding rolled into their social care funding and be expected to manage both themselves. Is this empowerment, or something more sinister, health experts wonder?

NHS boss Stevens is a powerful figure in all of this. Since the 2012 Act dramatically reduced ministerial accountability for the NHS, the NHS CEO’s role has been super-charged, with politicians largely taking a back seat on new NHS announcements. Stevens - who advised Tony Blair on his pro-market NHS 'reforms' - has spent the last few years as Vice President of the European Division of US healthcare megalith, United Health before he was hired to take the NHS reins in 2014.
This week Stevens was ubiquitous on the airwaves, promoting his version of ‘integrated’ health and social care through a shift to ‘new provider models’ and to move care ‘away from hospital and closer to people’s homes’. Again, there are fears amongst experienced health campaigners that what is actually envisaged, beneath the jargon few journalists have seriously penetrated, is a loss of NHS hospitals and a shift towards greater private provision.

Even less noticed by the media, however, is Stevens’ enthusiastic push towards Personal Health Budgets, which are able to be spent on both NHS and non-NHS providers. He used his first speech as head of the NHS last year to announce that Personal Health Budgets would be available to anyone with a long term condition who requested one from April 2015.

Professor Scott-Samuel said: “Personal Health Budgets are being introduced at a time when rapid privatisation of the English NHS is taking place and where restrictions are being placed on people’s access to healthcare.

“As a result many see their introduction as a diversionary gimmick designed to help pave the way for the conversion of the NHS into the insurance-based system which may believe is the intention of the UK government.”

JOHN LISTER 11 July 2014
New NHS boss Simon Stevens has revealed his true privatising colours with this week's announcement on personal health budgets - which would wreck England's NHS services and leave the field clear for big business.

We have been waiting to see whether - and how - new English NHS boss Simon Stevens would work round to furthering the private sector agenda he has brought with him from his sojourn at US insurance giant UnitedHealth – and now we know.

In a speech to the Local Government Association this week Stevens called for a major extension of combined health and social care personal budgets. The announcement opens up a whole range of opportunities for private insurers selling policies to cover top-up payments, and a host of cheapskate private service providers looking to cash in on a new £5 billion-plus market.

There is just one thing you could do to save some of us>>>>

Control Health Insurers
A reprint:

The Cockroach Catcher was privileged to be having dinner with his good friend.

He covered the bottle when he served his favourite red wine.

"See what you think."

"Fully of blackberry and long with good tannin that has softened. And Truffles too!"

"1996 and the tannin will keep it going for another 5 years."

"Of all the recent great wines that you have served and that included the second wines of Lafite and Margaux, this is the most impressive. Just like our NHS!"

"But now you have one of the most impressive guys running it."

"Selling it, you mean!"

"I did not want to upset you."

"So you know about Simon Stevens. Not just wines then."

"You need to know that Britain is responsible for producing all the great doctors in the old commonwealth. My cardiologist was trained there. Look at Singapore, Australia & New Zealand, generations of doctors were all trained in the UK and in turn the next generations.
Why do you think that UnitedHealth paid so much to get one of the top UK guys to add a new perspective?

UnitedHealth is based in Minnesota, home of the famous Mayo Clinic and Simon Stevens is married to an American and they have school age children. As you well know, it is not easy for Americans to adjust to British life."

"So you think he is not going to last that long?"

"He has a very natural excuse!"


"Lets see what Bloomberg say:"

UnitedHealth followed up on June 30 with another report for lawmakers pinpointing $332 billion in savings through better use of technology and administrative simplification. If enacted, those changes would potentially benefit UnitedHealth's Ingenix data-crunching unit. Ingenix, with annual revenue of $1.6 billion, is poised to establish a national digital clearinghouse to ensure the accuracy of medical payments and provide a centralized service for checking the credentials of physicians.

Stevens, an Oxford-educated executive vice-president at UnitedHealth, once served as an adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In that capacity, Stevens tried to fine-tune the U.K.'s nationally run health system. Today he tells lawmakers that theU.S. need not follow Britain's example. Concessions already offered by the U.S. insurance industry—such as accepting all applicants, regardless of age or medical history—make a government-run competitor unnecessary, he argues. "We don't think reform should come crashing down because of [resistance to] a public plan," Stevens says. Many congressional Democrats have come to the same conclusion.

UnitedHealth has traveled an unlikely path to becoming a Washington powerhouse. Its last chairman and chief executive, William W. McGuire, cultivated a corporate profile as an industry insurgent little concerned with goings-on in the capital. From its Minnetonka(Minn.) headquarters, the company grew swiftly by acquisition. McGuire absorbed both rival carriers and companies that analyze data and write software. Diversification turned UnitedHealth into the largest U.S. health insurer in terms of revenue. In 2008 it reported operating profit of $5.3 billion on revenue of $81.2 billion. It employs more than 75,000 people. 

Stevens argues that while UnitedHealth will likely benefit financially from health reform, the company will also aid the cause of reducing costs. He cites what he says is its record of "bending the cost curve" for major employers. 

During a media presentation in May in Washington, Stevens said medical costs incurred by UnitedHealth's corporate clients were rising only 4% annually, less than the industry average of 6% to 8%. But that claim seemed to conflict with statements company executives made just a month earlier during a conference call with investors. On that quarterly earnings call, UnitedHealth CEO Hemsley conceded that medical costs on commercial plans would increase 8% this year. 

Asked about the discrepancy, Stevens says the lower figure he is using in Washington represents the experience of a subset of employer clients who fully deployed UnitedHealth's cost-saving techniques, including oversight of the chronically ill. "These employers stuck at it for several years," he says. "We are putting forward positive ideas based on our experience of what works."


"So there is not reason for him to leave UnitedHealth! They love him. The best of British & of Oxford!"

"Perhaps he has not left UnitedHealth!"

"So perhaps a sort of UnitedNHS then!"

"Well despite what people say about Obamacare, even Stevens concede that:
.....the U.S. insurance industry—accepting all applicants, regardless of age or medical history—make a government-run competitor unnecessary, he argues.

"NHS as such was the most serious competitor to the Health Insurance Industry. It is serious because there is not even any co-pay!"

"And quality is the same as the actual specialist doctor on either side are the same."

"Only the coffee is better!"

"Whatever Stevens plan to do is not something most of us can begin to guess but my suspicion is that it would not be to anyone's liking..."

"Except the Health Insurance Industry."

"So, he will not follow the US example of insurance industry accepting all applicants, regardless of age or medical history."

"No way!"

"You see, UnitedHealth has decided to leave California because of that."

"Not profitable!"

"If Insurers need to cover everything in England, they would think twice and most likely do a California thing."

"And Stevens can go back to America then!"

"So what is the wine?"

"Big Sail Boat!"                                                              

"Big Sail Boat?"

That the logo might have helped to sell a wine is unthinkable if the wine is no good. Ch. Beychevelle was fortunate enough to have a boat on its label and the Chinese just embrace it now that Lynch Bages hit the roof and there are too many fake 1982 Lafites around.

When my friend stock up on his Beychevelle, it was he told me, just a third of the price right now.

"It will be the next Lynch Bages."

"That is why 50% has been sold to the Japanese!"


So will Simon sell or sail? Or sell then sail!

I recently learned that this month a class-action lawsuit has been filed against California United Behavioral Health (UBH), along with United Healthcare Insurance Company and US Behavioral Plan, alleging these companies improperly denied coverage for mental health care.
According to the class action lawsuit, United Behavioral Health violated California’s Mental Health Parity Act, which requires insurers to provide treatment for mental-health diagnosis according to “the same terms and conditions” applied to medical conditions. Specifically, the insurer is accused of denying and improperly limiting mental health coverage by conducting concurrent and prospective reviews of routine outpatient mental health treatments when no such reviews are conducted for routine outpatient treatments for other medical conditions. 
New York:

Pomerantz Law Firm has filed a Class Action Against UnitedHealth Group, Inc. 
for Violations of Federal and State Mental Health Parity Laws - UNH
NEW YORK, March 12, 2013 (GLOBENEWSWIRE) Pomerantz Grossman Hufford Dahlstrom & Gross LLP has filed a class action lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group Inc. (“UnitedHealth” or the “Company”)(NYSE: UNH) and various subsidiaries, including United Behavioral Health.  The class action was filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and docketed under 13 CV 1599, alleging violations of federal and state mental health parity laws and other related statutes. The action has been brought on behalf of three beneficiaries who are insured by health care plans issued or administered by United and whose coverage for mental health claims has been denied or curtailed. These plaintiffs seek to represent a nationwide class of similarly situated subscribers. In addition, the action was filed on behalf of the New York State Psychiatric Association, Inc. (“NYSPA”), a division of the American Psychiatric Association, seeking injunctive relief in a representational capacity on behalf of its members and their patients.

The health insurer violated state law nearly 1 million times from 2006 to 2008 after it was bought by UnitedHealth Group, the Department of Insurance says. The fine, if there is one, is likely to be much less than the maximum allowed.'


WASHINGTON, D.C. - United Healthcare Insurance Company has agreed to pay the United States $3.5 million to settle allegations that the company defrauded the Medicare program, the Justice Department announced today.
The government alleges that beginning in or about 1996 and continuing through 2000, United Healthcare's telephone response unit knowingly mishandled certain phone inquiries received from Medicare beneficiaries and providers and then falsely reported its performance information to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) concerning the company's handling of those calls. CMS is the federal agency charged with administering the Medicare program.
From October 2, 1995 to October 1, 2000, United Healthcare acted under contract with CMS as a Durable Medical Equipment Regional Carrier. Under that contract, United Healthcare processed Medicare Part B claims for durable medical equipment submitted to it by Medicare beneficiaries, physicians, and other health care providers and suppliers located in the northeastern United States.
"This settlement demonstrates our continuing commitment to pursue vigorously allegations of fraud and abuse in Medicare," said Peter Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Department's Civil Division. "Medicare contractors, along with other health care providers, can and will be held accountable for their billing practices. This settlement demonstrates our unwavering pursuit of fraud and abuse."
The allegations of improper conduct were brought to the attention of the government by a former United Healthcare employee, who filed suit under seal in November 2001 under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the federal False Claims Act. The United States recently intervened in the whistleblower suit.
As a result of today’s settlement, the whistleblower will receive $647,500 of the settlement amount. United Healthcare did not admit any of the allegations in the complaint in connection with the settlement. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the government and share in any awards that are obtained through that legal action.