It is interesting to come back to somewhere where I can start catching Cockroaches.
Before then, I realised what a genius our Health Secretary really is:
The Guardian: Lansley's claims about hospital PFI debt 'misleading'!
He has managed to turn so many to now love PFI. Wow!
But wait: he has also set out the justification to sell off the 22 hospitals to the likes of Circle or Netcare. Win! Win!
But is the genius ready to deal with Medical Fraud?
Something didn't look right. Maxim Healthcare nurses were showing up at Richard West's house according to one schedule. But Maxim was billing the government according to another.
West complained to the state: The company was charging for hundreds of hours of work it never did. Officials blew him off, he said. He alerted Medicaid, the state and federal program that paid for his care. Nothing happened.
He told a social worker. She expressed concern, but did nothing. But West, a Vietnam vet with muscular dystrophy, kept pushing and pushing, building a giant, accusatory snowball that landed last week — eight years later — on Maxim's Columbia headquarters.
Maxim has signed a criminal and civil settlement related to allegations that it schemed to rip off $61 million from state and federal governments, law enforcement authorities said last week. The company is paying $150 million in penalties and recompense. Eight former Maxim employees so far have pleaded guilty to felony charges in several states.
If Washington is as serious about fighting medical fraud as it pretends to be, it will recruit an army of Richard Wests to burn off leeches like Maxim. Nobody is in a better position to see fraud than patients, who can check the care they receive against what's on the invoice.
Now that West has shown that patients can get rich in the bargain, there's plenty of incentive. Not that his motivation was his $14.8 million share of the settlement. Anger was. He didn't even know about such whistleblower rewards at first.
"Somebody decided to make a profit on my disability," West said in a telephone interview. "This is your country. You see fraud, you should turn them in. That is part of being an American."
Whistleblower rewards under the federal False Claims Act have been around since the Civil War. The recent caseload has been dominated by allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, which costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year.
In almost every instance, the person who alerts law enforcement is a corporate insider, not a patient. West's information in the Maxim case was so compelling, however, that the government credited him as the "original source," with independent and direct knowledge of the fraud.
He kept spreadsheets on the gaping discrepancy between the hours Maxim nurses spent in his home north of Atlantic City, N.J., and the hours Maxim billed Medicaid. Eventually he documented more than 700 hours of bogus charges, according to the New Jersey attorney general.
After a couple months of detective work, West got in touch with Baltimore lawyer Robin Page West (no relation), who specializes in whistleblower lawsuits. Together they built a case, filed it under court seal in 2004 and turned it over to law enforcement. And waited.
West, 63, speaks precisely but with difficulty, in a high-toned voice. He says he commanded an Army track vehicle with 40 mm guns in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969 — the deadliest years of the war there. Yet biding his time while investigators built their file, he said, "was the hardest thing I've ever done."