Nebraska gets the nod for Medicaid work requirements

https://mailchi.mp/f2794551febb/the-weekly-gist-october-23-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

Federal judge blocks Kentucky's Medicaid work requirements

This week Nebraska became the latest state to receive waiver authority from the Trump administration to implement work requirements as part of its Medicaid expansion program.

The program, called “Heritage Health Adult”, will be a two-tiered system, with expansion-eligible adults choosing between “Basic” and “Prime” coverage levels. The lower tier will provide coverage for physical and behavioral health services, with a prescription drug benefit, and is open to adults not eligible for traditional Medicaid with incomes under 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

“Prime” enrollees will get additional dental, vision, and over-the-counter drug benefits, in exchange for agreeing to 80 hours per month of work, volunteering, or active job seeking, which must be reported to the state.

Nebraska voters approved the Medicaid expansion two years ago, although enrollment only began this August, and the work-linked demonstration project is slated to start next year. An estimated 90,000 additional Nebraskans are expected to enroll in Medicaid under the expanded program.
 
The approval of Nebraska’s Medicaid work requirement comes a week after the Trump administration approved a partial expansion of Medicaid in Georgia, called “Pathways to Coverage”, which is also tied to a requirement to seek or engage in employment or education activities.

The Georgia program also requires premium payments by eligible adults who make between 50 and 100 percent of the federal poverty line. Court challenges will inevitably ensue for both the Nebraska and Georgia programs—only Utah has successfully implemented Medicaid work requirements, with 16 other state programs either pending approval, held up in court, or awaiting implementation. We continue to be deeply skeptical of Medicaid work requirements, and believe they only serve to deter those who would otherwise qualify for coverage from enrolling, and that the expense of their implementation and ongoing operation often outweighs any savings to the state.

The argument that “work encourages health”, often advanced by proponents of work requirements, gets it exactly backwards—rather, health security encourages work, a reality that has become ever more urgent as the COVID pandemic has drawn on. 

As the economy continues to falter, Medicaid’s importance as a safety net program grows ever greater, and work requirements create an unhelpful obstacle to basic healthcare access.

Blue Cross Blue Shield sues AllianzGI over investment strategies

https://www.pionline.com/courts/blue-cross-blue-shield-sues-allianzgi-over-investment-strategies

Blue Cross Blue Shield’s national employee benefits committee filed a lawsuit against Allianz Global Investors and its investment consultant Aon Investments USA, charging both with breaches of fiduciary responsibilities and breach of contract regarding more than $2 billion in losses in the insurer’s defined benefit plan trust.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New York, alleges that AllianzGI took “reckless actions” in the management of three funds the manager had said offered downside protection against market declines and volatility, according to the court filing.

As of Jan. 31, the National Retirement Trust of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association had a total of $2.9 billion invested in the AllianzGI Structured Alpha Multi-Beta Series LLC I, AllianzGI Structured Alpha Emerging Markets Equity 350 LLC, and the AllianzGI Structured Alpha 1000 LLC, according to the filing.

The numerical values in the strategy names correspond to the amount of alpha in basis points above a corresponding index the strategy is expected to achieve.

After the funds experienced heavy losses in February and March, the investments were liquidated and redeemed, and the committee received about $540 million, according to the filing.

As of Dec. 31, 2018, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association National Retirement Trust had $4.6 billion in assets, according to its most recent Form 5500 filing.

The lawsuit, which includes claims breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract against both AllianzGI and Aon, alleges that AllianzGI “caused the (benefits) committee to believe that structured alpha’s risk profile was consistent with Allianz’s stated investment strategy rather than the actual risk profile, either by making false or misleading representations about structured alpha or failing to disclose information necessary to correct prior representations that were inconsistent with how Allianz was actually managing the strategy.”

The suit alleges Aon breached its obligations by “failing to monitor and inform the committee of breakdowns in Allianz’s risk management protocols, learning only after the catastrophic events of March 2020 that Allianz had inadequate risk management in place.”

AllianzGI’s structured alpha strategies have historically been designed to be both long and short volatility, according to a September 2016 presentation: Taking range-bound spread positions, to sell options that were most likely to expire worthless (short volatility); hedged positions designed to protect against market crashes (long volatility); and directional spread positions designed to generate returns when equity indexes rise or fall more than usual during multiweek periods (long/short volatility).

The lawsuit alleges that “when equity markets declined, volatility spiked and the funds’ option positions were exposed to a heightened risk of loss in February and March 2020, those promised protections were absent.”

The lawsuit seeks relief including restoration of all losses, actual damages and accounting and disgorgement of fees and profits.

John Wallace, AllianzGI spokesman, said in an email: “While the losses sustained by the Structured Alpha portfolio during the market downturn in late February and March were disappointing, AllianzGI believes the allegations made by Blue Cross Blue Shield are legally and factually flawed. We will defend ourselves vigorously against these claims. Blue Cross Blue Shield was advised by a sophisticated investment consultant to evaluate the Structured Alpha strategy. These funds sought to deliver substantial returns of as much as 10% above, net of fees, the returns of the fund’s benchmark, an index like the S&P 500. As was fully disclosed to Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Structured Alpha strategy involved risks commensurate with those higher returns. Blue Cross Blue Shield and their consultant determined that the Structured Alpha Portfolio fit with their overall investment goals and risk tolerances.”

The $15.3 billion Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, Little Rock, filed its own lawsuit against Allianz Global Investors and subsidiaries in July, regarding its own losses in structured alpha strategies.

Robert Elfinger, Aon spokesman, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Sean W. Gallagher, Adam L. Hoeflich, Nicolas L. Martinez, Abby M. Mollen and Mark S. Ouweleen, partners at Bartlit Beck, attorney for the plaintiffs, could also not be immediately reached for comment.

 

 

 

 

Striking nurses at Illinois hospital return to work without new contract

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/university-illinois-nurses-back-to-work-after-strike/585631/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202020-09-22%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:29794%5D&utm_term=Healthcare%20Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago returned to work Monday following a weeklong strike over their new contract. The two sides were unable to reach an agreement despite negotiations “that ran well into the evening” each night of the strike and planned to resume talks Monday.
  • They made some progress on key issues. The hospital agreed to hire more than 200 nurses to quell staff-to-patient ratio concerns at the forefront of the strike, according to the Illinois Nurses Association. UIH also proposed slight wage increases for nurses opposed to previously offered freezes, though the union countered with larger increases, INA said.
  • UIH agreed that it’s closer to making a deal on the contract despite not reaching a tentative agreement. Nurses will report to work under the existing terms of their past contract until a new deal is reached.

Dive Insight:

Nurse staffing levels have been an issue since long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the crisis has accelerated those concerns, along with labor activity, as clinicians on the front lines have faced grueling conditions.

Before the strike began, UIH said staff-patient ratios are too rigid and remove flexibility, instead favoring acuity-based models focused on “obtaining the right nurse at the right time for each patient.”

But it amended that proposal last week, now agreeing to hire 200 nurses “to improve the staffing ratio, addressing the most important issue the nurses insisted on as a primary reason to strike,” according to INA.

Illinois has a Safe Patient Limits bill before its legislature that would spell out the maximum number of patients who may be assigned to a registered nurse in specified situations. HB 2604 was introduced in February 2019 and is currently before the House rules committee, though it has not received a full vote.

On Sept. 11, the day before the UIH strike began, a judge granted a temporary restraining order forbidding nurses in certain critical care units from going on strike.

The lawsuit, filed by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, claimed a work stoppage among those nurses would endanger public safety due to the unique nature of the services provided in the units, specialized needs of patients they serve and lack of qualified substitutes to perform nurses’ duties.

About 525 nurses out of 1,400 represented by INA were barred from striking at UIH, according to the union.

Two days after UIH nurses walked off the job, service workers at the university main campus, hospital and various other facilities also went on strike.

Some 4,000 clerical, professional, technical, service and maintenance workers represented by Service Employees International Union 73 went on strike Sept. 14 over similar issues as the nurses, mainly staffing and pay.

The planned duration of the SEIU strike is unclear, though it’s been a week since it began.

“As UIC nurses return to work, we will continue our strike,” the union said in a statement. “We won’t quit until UIC respects us, protects us and pays us. Working through a pandemic and seeing our co-workers die has stiffened our resolve to fight for however long it takes to ensure the safety of all workers and those we serve.”

 

 

 

 

Chicago hospital defeats allegations of ‘ghost payroll’ scheme

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/chicago-hospital-defeats-allegations-of-ghost-payroll-scheme.html?utm_medium=email

False Claims Act & Physicians - Basic Primer

An Illinois federal court has dismissed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging University of Chicago Medical Center, Medical Business Office and Trustmark Recovery Services violated the False Claims Act, according to Bloomberg Law

MBO and Trustmark provided medical billing and debt collection services for UCMC. The whistleblowers, Kenya Sibley, Jasmeka Collins and Jessica Lopez, alleged MBO and Trustmark engaged in a “ghost payroll” scheme that involved regularly falsifying UCMC invoices, listing employes who didn’t work on the hospital’s collections and time charges from people who were not employees.

The whistleblowers, former employees of MBO and Trademark, alleged the companies and UCMC knew about the “ghost payroll” scheme, and that the allegedly falsified invoices caused the hospital to report overstated wages to the federal government, triggering a larger Medicare reimbursement than it was entitled to.

The complaint further alleged that MBO and Trustmark engaged in a “bad debt” scheme. “MBO would regularly write-off Medicare bad debts for amounts a Medicare beneficiary owed without conducting a reasonable collection effort, when Medicare beneficiaries were still paying on the debts, or when Medicare beneficiaries did not actually owe a debt,” the amended complaint states.

After writing off the bad debt, MBO would allegedly send the bad debt to Trustmark or another collection agency for further collection efforts.

On Sept. 14, Judge Harry Leinenweber of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the amended complaint, saying the whistleblowers failed to adequately allege the defendants engaged in a scheme to inflate bad debts and falsify invoices in University of Chicago’s cost reports. 

The allegations of a “ghost payroll” scheme fail because the whistleblowers failed to allege that defendants certified compliance with any regulation, which is required when filing a false claims case, the judge said in the decision. The amended complaint also fails to establish sufficiently UCMC’s knowledge of the alleged scheme.

The judge also ruled that the amended complaint failed to adequately allege a “bad debt” scheme. Allegations related to MBO’s and Trustmark’s bad debt reports to clients cannot satisfy the requirements to show that companies or their clients submitted improper claims for bad debt reimbursements to the government, reads the decision.

 

 

 

 

Why Your Hand Sanitizer May Be Ineffective Or Tainted By Cancer-Causing Chemicals

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2020/09/10/why-your-hand-sanitizer-may-be-ineffective-or-tainted-by-cancer-causing-chemicals/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=coronavirus&cdlcid=5d2c97df953109375e4d8b68#115d2e346241

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, hand sanitizers have become a sought-after staple of life in a Covid-19-afflicted world. But supply chains have been turned upside down in our new normal, and some sketchy suppliers have at times stepped in to fill the vacuum. The result for consumers could be hand sanitizer that doesn’t work as advertised and might even be filled with impurities that can cause cancer.

When the pandemic set in during the spring, New Mexico’s Rolling Still Distillery began switching gears from making its trademark green chile vodka and other spirits to producing hand sanitizer for sale and free distribution during the early days of lockdown.

In the middle of May, Rolling Still founder Dan Irion (disclosure: Irion and I have lived in the same small town for years and occasionally hang out socially) began to receive a number of emails from bulk ethanol producers, offering up the alcohol for sanitizer production at prices as low as $1.60 a gallon, quite a deal over the $9 per gallon or more Rolling Still normally pays for its key ingredient.

To take advantage of the steep discount, Rolling Still would need to come up with $60,000 and take possession of a huge tank of the stuff.

Irion balked at the offer after he couldn’t get a straight answer about the quality of the ethanol. He asked one of the suppliers if organic alcohol was available and was told simply: “It’s all good. Don’t worry about it.”

He called Brian Coutu from Rolling Still’s regular alcohol supplier, Greenfield Global, who warned him away from what he says is fuel-grade ethanol potentially loaded with chemicals that are known to cause cancer.

Coutu knew this because Greenfield was getting the same cold calls Irion received, but as a large corporation, it could easily test samples.

“They send us a sample and it’s just God awful…it’s got acetaldehyde and benzene and all kind of nasty stuff in it; it’s not pure,” Coutu told me over the phone. “What (fuel producers) are trying to do is dump it off to these companies that run it through charcoal and try to do a million other things to make it USP grade (safe for food, drug or medicinal use), which it’s still not.”

Irion and Coutu both told me that the cold calls had largely stopped by the end of June. The price of ethanol cratered at the end of March as the pandemic took hold and fuel demand dropped. It stayed low through May before edging back near pre-pandemic levels at the end of June.

“Because of the fast and furious nature of the hand sanitizer industry at that time, we might have done it,” Irion says. “I’m sure there are others who saw this as a way to do something good and make money.”

And this is the big question for right now. How much of the sanitizer that made it to warehouses, store shelves and ultimately into our homes, cars and hands was produced from industrial fuel-grade ingredients rather than safe medical or food grade alcohol?

“You’re seeing less pure forms get into the market because there is a shortage of ethanol,” says Mike Sandoval, President and Chief Operating Officer of Santé Laboratories. “We see tert-butyl impurities, we see methanol, we see benzene in many of the hand sanitizers we test… We’ve seen some tequila grade ethanol that when you open the bottle it smells terrible, unless you like tequila… we’re seeing a lack of transparency in this space.”

 

Not just distilleries

Santé Labs works primarily in the hemp and CBD markets, providing quality testing and other services. CBD manufacturers can work with large amounts of ethanol and also turned to making hand sanitizers in the spring.

Sandoval says he began seeing CBD manufacturers and related companies using “untraditional sources” of ethanol from places like Mexico, Guatemala, South America and the fuel industry. The raw alcohol often came with a certificate of authenticity claiming 100 percent purity, but in reality it might actually contain chemical impurities and a significant amount of water.

“They come from a price sensitive market where no one wants to pay for high quality tests… They’re not used to operating in sophisticated manufacturing where you are required to test incoming raw material. For example the ethanol or isopropyl alcohol that goes in a hand sanitizer. You’re supposed to test (according to Food and Drug Administration rules) the purity of that ingredient before you formulate it, and that’s just not happening.”

For its part, the FDA has recently made public guidance on a testing method to detect impurities in hand sanitizers like those seen by Greenfield and Sante Labs.

“The agency’s investigation of contaminated hand sanitizers is ongoing,” the FDA said in an email. “Producing, importing and distributing toxic hand sanitizers poses a serious threat to the public and will not be tolerated.”

The takeaway from all this is that the ethanol market for manufacturers new to the production of hand sanitizer was flooded with sketchy raw alcohol that could be diluted or tainted with carcinogens. If that raw material isn’t tested on the front end, the resulting final product can come out with those impurities and an alcohol concentration that doesn’t meet the claims stated on the label.

The FDA maintains a list of hand sanitizers to avoid because they’ve been found to contain dangerous amounts of methanol, or an insufficient amount of its actual sanitizing ingredient, such as ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. However, the FDA’s enforcement powers are limited. A new waiver program created in response to the pandemic makes it easier for manufacturers to get around substantiating their label claims.

“Nine out of ten people are not meeting the label claim,” Sandoval says. “So most of the hand sanitizer you’re using from stores – and I even saw one from Wal-Mart that was a big brand… their hand sanitizers were crystallizing and turning green. I guarantee that they’re at 50 percent ethanol when they need to be at 70 percent.”

This brings up yet another concern, which is the shortage of proper plastic bottles and containers for sanitizer. Sandoval suspects that some manufacturers may have resorted to using the wrong type of containers, which then react with the alcohol, leaching chemicals into the sanitizer and turning its color.

“This entire supply chain is upside down because there’s a shortage of everything.”

 

Covering the stink of subpar sanitizer

Coutu at Greenfield Global says he’s aware of companies that have purchased their alcohol from unconventional sources, lured by prices as much as 90 percent lower than what Greenfield would charge.

The FDA relaxed the allowable limit of impurities like acetaldehyde and benzene that can make it into hand sanitizer, but Coutu says the limits still only allow a very small amount, whereas the samples Greenfield was testing had levels of contamination ten to 100 times higher than the new limits.

“And the odor on it is just not acceptable. It smells like burnt tequila… there’s some pretty nasty stuff out there and it’s dangerous.”

New services have even popped up this year, with fragrance manufacturers offering up products to help reduce the bad odor of some ethanol-based hand sanitizers.

Irion feels like he dodged a bullet by not jumping at the deeply discounted supply of ethanol others may not have been able to resist.

Rolling Still continued buying the organic alcohol it uses in both its spirits and sanitizer. It’s now ramping up production of sanitizer, which Irion says has no need for added fragrances to mask any ethanol odors, but some local osha and sage is infused to lighten the scent.

The alcohol used is also distilled five times just to make sure all impurities are removed.

 

 

 

 

Urgent care network to pay $12.5M in billing fraud case

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/urgent-care-network-to-pay-12-5m-in-billing-fraud-case.html?utm_medium=email

Different Types of Fraud and Abuse found in Medical Billing - Leading Medical  Billing Services | medicalbillersandcoders

A company that owned and operated more than 30 urgent care centers has agreed to pay $12.5 million to resolve overbilling allegations, the Department of Justice announced Sept. 3. 

UCXtra Umbrella, which did business in Arizona as Urgent Care Extra, previously admitted to engaging in healthcare fraud and monetary transactions derived from unlawful activity. The company admitted that it had billing procedures in place that caused its providers to overstate the complexity of the medical services provided to patients. This resulted in falsely inflated reimbursement rates from health insurance companies, according to the Justice Department. 

The company also admitted that staff were encouraged to order tests and procedures that may not have been medically necessary to justify higher billing codes and reimbursement. 

Health insurance companies overpaid the company by an estimated $12.5 million due to the fraud scheme, according to the Justice Department.

 

 

Einstein’s flagship hospital at risk without merger, Jefferson and Einstein say

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-transactions-and-valuation/einstein-s-flagship-hospital-at-risk-without-merger-jefferson-and-einstein-say.html?utm_medium=email

FTC says merger of Jefferson and Einstein would raise hospital prices 6.9%

The merger of Einstein Healthcare Network and Jefferson Health is a matter of survival for Einstein’s flagship hospital, the two Philadelphia systems argued in a federal court filing this week, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The health systems are attempting to overcome opposition to their merger from the Pennsylvania attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission.

A Sept. 14 hearing is slated on the FTC’s preliminary injunction request. 

A court filing from the two health systems argued that Einstein, which has only had annual operating profits twice since 2012, is on a path to financial failure and needs $500 million to invest in key capital projects and deferred maintenance.

Without the infusion, Jefferson and Einstein said Einstein will continue to weaken “as it is forced to cut services or close facilities,” the Inquirer reported.

“Einstein was unable to identify any alternative buyer to Jefferson that possessed the financial strength and scale necessary to address Einstein’s financial problems,” the filing read, according to the Inquirer. “No other potential strategic partners were willing and able to commit to keep EMCP [Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia] open with its current set of services.”

The FTC announced in February its intent to sue to block the merger, arguing that combining the two systems would reduce competition in Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

“Jefferson and Einstein have a history of competing against each other to improve quality and service,” the FTC said in the February announcement. “The proposed merger would eliminate the robust competition between Jefferson and Einstein for inclusion in health insurance companies’ hospital networks to the detriment of patients.”

The FTC said that with a combination, the two parties would own at least 60 percent of the inpatient general acute care service market around Philadelphia and at least 45 percent of that same market in Montgomery County.

 

 

 

Battle over COVID-19 school openings goes to the courts

https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/514196-battle-over-covid-19-school-openings-goes-to-the-courts

Nearly 800 COVID-19 lawsuits have been filed, according to law firm's  tracker

Teachers unions are waging court fights across the country aimed at unwinding what they say are unsafe and politically motivated timetables for reopening schools that risk exposing personnel to the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials eager to ramp up brick-and-mortar operations are facing lawsuits from Florida to Texas to Iowa over reopening plans as well as access to the COVID-19 infection data needed to monitor the rate of spread within school communities. 

At the same time, lawsuits are flying from the opposition direction: Parents in several states, including New York, Massachusetts and Oregon, dissatisfied with web-based teaching alternatives, are suing to force state officials to reopen physical schools sooner as courts are increasingly called upon to referee the fight over education in the age of coronavirus.

“A legal storm is brewing as safety and social distancing requirements for a physical return to school begin to take shape around the country,” Maria Ferguson, executive director of the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, wrote on the education website The 74.

As millions of students prepare for the first day of school — whether in-person, remote or a hybrid of the two — the fight over the reopening physical school buildings is likely to intensify.

The debate over in-person K-12 instruction planning is inseparably tied to the issues of child care needs and parents’ ability to return to the workforce to help revive the struggling economy, all of which is playing out against the backdrop of a fast-approaching November election in a country that has seen nearly 6 million cases and more than 181,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Perhaps the highest-profile legal battle is taking place in the courts of Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off last month on an emergency order over school reopenings.

Under the order, most Florida school districts would be required to hold in-person classes five days a week by the end of August or risk losing funding. President Trump, who counts DeSantis as a close ally, has also threatened to cut off federal funding for schools if they do not resume in-person learning this fall.

The Florida policy prompted a lawsuit from the Florida Education Association (FEA), a statewide teachers union, and several other plaintiffs in favor of a more cautious return to in-person teaching.

“Public schools are not designed for COVID safety, and indeed, the government has recognized that they are high-contact environments,” said Kendall Coffey, the lead plaintiff’s attorney in the Florida case, who likened prematurely opened schools to “disease factories” and called the Florida policy “financial bullying.”

There are any number of issues, in terms of hallway sizes, the flow of students in and out of classrooms, ventilation, even how many students go into the bathroom,” he told The Hill. “There are many elements that are virtually impossible to guarantee when you’re dealing with children in large amounts.”

On Aug. 24, a Florida judge ruled in favor of the union and temporarily halted the statewide order. In his decision, Judge Charles Dodson struck down the order’s unconstitutional provisions and blasted DeSantis for having “essentially ignored” the state’s constitutional requirement that schools be operated safely.

“The districts have no meaningful alternative,” wrote Dodson, of Leon County. “If an individual school district chooses safety, that is, delaying the start of schools until it individually determines it is safe to do so for its county, it risks losing state funding, even though every student is being taught.”

A Florida appeals court agreed to temporarily halt Judge Dodson’s order from taking effect while DeSantis appeals.

The state contends that the benefit of in-person instruction outweighs the health risks associated with reopening brick-and-mortar schools. Some Florida school officials have also declined to disclose incidents of positive COVID-19 cases to school communities, citing the need for patient privacy. 

Attorneys for Florida have also argued in hearings that courts should not substitute their judgment for that of policymakers who have balanced all the equities and decided a prompt in-person reopening is the best policy.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the largest teachers unions in the country, said Florida has its priorities backward.

“What their arguments show is that they don’t care about human life,” Weingarten told The Hill.

According to Weingarten, internal AFT polling in June showed that about 3 in 4 teachers said they would be comfortable returning to the classroom if guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were implemented in schools.

But she predicts that attitudes among teachers have shifted dramatically in past months as the Trump administration has failed to adequately manage the virus to ensure schools can be reopened safely.

“We’re polling right now,” she said. “And my hunch is that just like the public polls, it’s totally flipped.”

The AFT is backing lawsuits in Florida, New Mexico and Texas. Before schools can reopen safely — for what Weingarten calls “the biggest move indoors that the nation has done since March” — the group says local positivity rates should be below 3 percent and schools should have visibility into daily transmission rates. 

The union is also pushing for protocols that involve testing, contact tracing and isolation and implement best practices from the CDC for things such as ventilation, cleaning, physical distancing, mask-wearing and other safeguards.

As teachers unions make their case in court, parents in at least five states have filed lawsuits of their own to accelerate school reopenings.

A nonprofit litigation group called the Center for American Liberty, co-founded by lawyer and GOP official Harmeet Dhillon, is backing one such suit in California. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions on in-person school openings in the Golden State will affect an estimated 80 percent of K-12 students.

“The effects of this ham-handed policy are as predictable as they are tragic,” the lawsuit filed in a federal court in California states. “Hundreds of thousands of students will essentially drop out of school, whether because they lack the technological resources to engage with ‘online learning’ or because their parents cannot assist them.”

The litigation raises concerns about everything from school closures exacerbating the achievement gap and disproportionately harming special needs students and those without convenient internet access to challenges over the constitutional validity of government health orders.

Weingarten, of AFT, said it’s important to remember that despite seemingly irreconcilable differences over the policy details, all parties want to see schools reopen as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“None of us believes that remote is a substitute,” she said. “It’s a supplement.”

 

 

Ex-California hospital CFO pleads not guilty to felony charges

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/ex-california-hospital-cfo-pleads-not-guilty-to-felony-charges.html?utm_medium=email

Binghamton Embezzlement Lawyer | Embezzlement Charges in NY

The former CFO of Health Care Conglomerate Associates pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzlement, conflict of interest and using his official position for personal gain, according to The Sun-Gazette

Alan Germany formerly served as CFO of HCCA, which previously managed Tulare (Calif.) Regional Medical Center. He also served as the acting CFO of Tulare Regional and Inyo Hospital in Lone Pine, Calif. Mr. Germany was one of three HCCA executives indicted Aug. 11. 

Mr. Germany was charged with 11 counts of embezzlement, four counts of conflict of interest, and one count each of using his official position for personal gain and failing to file a statement of economic interest. On Aug. 19, he pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to the report. 

The charges against Mr. Germany include accusations of having hospital staff generate false billing invoices and working with HCCA’s former CEO Yorai “Benny” Benzeevi, MD, to embezzle U.S. Treasury funds meant for hospital districts, according to the report.

If convicted on all charges, Mr. Germany could face more than 10 years in prison, according to the Visalia Times Delta. His next hearing is set for Sept. 30.